Soccer: Key players back for All Whites, Roux named in squad

New Zealand All Whites celebrate a goal during the FIFA World Cup Qualifier match between the New Zealand All Whites and New Caledonia. File photo / Getty Images
New Zealand All Whites celebrate a goal during the FIFA World Cup Qualifier match between the New Zealand All Whites and New Caledonia. File photo / Getty Images

Attacking trio Shane Smeltz, Chris Wood and Marco Rojas have returned to the All Whites squad to face Mexico in the FIFA World Cup intercontinental playoff later this month, while Storm Roux is the surprise inclusion in the 23-man squad.

All three players missed the October friendly with Trinidad and Tobago due to injury but are a good chance to start the away leg in Mexico City next Wednesday.

Roux, playing in the fullback position, has risen quickly through the ranks after representing New Zealand at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Turkey earlier this year with the 20-year-old having started all four matches of the new A-League season for the Central Coast Mariners after making the switch from Perth Glory.

All Whites coach Ricki Herbert said Roux's inclusion is reward for a player who has quickly found his feet at the top level across the Tasman.

"Storm is playing in the A-League for a side that has done exceptionally well in the competition," Herbert said.

"He's come into the team who are the competition champions and secured a starting spot. I've watched him play a number of times and Graham Arnold [Central Coast Mariners coach] speaks highly of him."

Herbert says Roux's individual strengths will serve the All Whites well in several areas.

"He's athletically a player who can get forward and he will put pressure on the likes of Tony Lochhead and Leo Bertos because he's able to play down both sides. I've also been impressed with his one-on-one defending as well."

Herbert says Smeltz, Wood and Rojas are all key members of the squad.

"It's great to be able to include those players who have long been an integral part of what we've done," Herbert said.

"Their return points to the fact that we're developing a very competitive squad."

After earning a recall for the 0-0 draw with Trinidad and Tobago; Rory Fallon - New Zealand's goal scoring hero from the 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign against Bahrain - is named while Bill Tuiloma and Craig Henderson, who earned their first caps last month, are also included.

Chris James, who featured in the September trip to Saudi Arabia for the OSN Cup, is also named while Chris Killen and Tim Payne were not considered due to injury.

The squad will assemble in Los Angeles on November 9 before travelling to Mexico City for the first leg encounter at the 105,000 capacity Estadio Azteca five days later.

During their time in camp before the opening match of the tie, Herbert says the group will be focussed internally rather than taking too much account of their opposition.

"With Mexico and the change of personnel they've had recently we'll be focusing on us and what we are doing. One of the things we will be looking at is what we can do when we're in control and being positive in those moments."

Herbert said the experience of the victory over Bahrain four years ago gives the side an insight into how best to approach the two-leg playoff tie.

"The home fixture is ultra-important and after watching them against Finland move numbers forward quickly I'm sure they'll try to set the tie alight and score goals in that first leg," Herbert said.

"That presents a strong challenge for us but also a good one. If we can be tight and very resolute we can put ourselves in a position to showcase our talents at home in the second leg."

The intercontinental playoff gets underway on Wednesday 13 November (Thursday 14 November, 9.30am NZ time) at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City with the return leg at Westpac Stadium in Wellington on Wednesday 20 November.

New Zealand squad - FIFA World Cup intercontinental playoff v Mexico
(Club, caps, goals)

Goalkeepers:
Glen Moss (Wellington Phoenix, - 24/0)
Jacob Spoonley (Wellington Phoenix, - 2/0)
Tamati Williams (Auckland City FC, NZL - 0-0)

Defenders:
Andrew Durante (Wellington Phoenix, - 4/0)
Tony Lochhead (unattached - 46/1)
Winston Reid (Captain / West Ham Utd, ENG - 17/1)
Storm Roux (Central Coast Mariners, AUS - 0/0)
Ben Sigmund (Wellington Phoenix, - 31/2)
Tommy Smith (Ipswich Town FC, ENG, 25/2)
Bill Tuiloma (Olympique Marsellie, FRA - 1/0)
Ivan Vicelich (Auckland City FC, NZL - 87/6)

Midfielders:
Leo Bertos (Wellington Phoenix, - 55/0)
Aaron Clapham (Canterbury Utd, NZL - 13/0)
Jeremy Christie (unattached - 26/1)
Craig Henderson (Mjallby AIF, SWE - 1/0)
Chris James (Kuopion Palloseura, FIN - 14/0)
Michael McGlinchey (Central Coast Mariners, AUS - 23/3)

Forwards:
Kosta Barbarouses (Melbourne Victory, AUS - 22/2)
Jeremy Brockie (Wellington Phoenix - 40/0)
Rory Fallon (St Johnstone, SCO - 15/3)
Marco Rojas (Vfb Stuttgart, GER - 15/1)
Shane Smeltz (Perth Glory, AUS - 49/23)
Chris Wood (Leicester City FC, ENG - 32/10)

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