Soccer: Moss to captain youthful All Whites

By Michael Brown

Glen Moss will captain the All Whites against Japan. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Glen Moss will captain the All Whites against Japan. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Neil Emblen might be just interim coach but he's ushered in a new era for the All Whites with a handful of changes for the side to face Japan in an international in Tokyo next month.

Emblen will take charge of the side after Ricki Herbert stepped down as coach following the dispiriting two-legged World Cup defeat to Mexico last year and he's left out long-time All Whites Leo Bertos, Tony Lochhead, Jeremy Christie and Rory Fallon. Jake Butler, Aaron Clapham, Louis Fenton, Tamati Williams and Craig Henderson are also missing from the squad that played Mexico, along with veteran defender Ivan Vicelich who retired from international football last week and striker Chris Killen.

Captain Winston Reid won't feature as he returns to full fitness from an ankle injury and, after consultation with New Zealand Football, Tommy Smith will remain in England with Ipswich. Goalkeeper Glen Moss will captain the side.

Emblen favoured youth during his time as Waitakere United coach and he's plumped for a number of youngsters in the 18-man squad to face Japan. The squad features nine players under the age of 25, including three teenagers, and most could be expected to play a significant role in the next World Cup campaign.

There are six players from the Junior All Whites who played at last year's Under-20 World Cup in Turkey with Tim Payne, Cameron Howieson, Storm Roux and Bill Tuiloma all named along with All Whites squad debutants Ryan Thomas and Tyler Boyd.

Boyd has impressed since joining the Wellington Phoenix while Thomas has made a strong start at Dutch Eredivisie club PEC Zwolle. Since signing in the middle of 2013, the 19-year-old has earned a contract extension through to 2018, scoring his first league goal for club two weeks ago in a 2-1 victory over Roda JC.

Five players are included who didn't feature in the playoff loss to Mexico with Payne, Howieson, Thomas and Boyd joined by Wellington Phoenix defender Michael Boxall, who is aiming for his first All Whites appearance since 2012.

"The players deserve to be in the squad,'' Emblen said. "They are getting regular game time and playing a high level of football. They are in good form and deserve the opportunity.''

"It's going to be a huge test. Japan play fantastic football and I expect they'll be at full strength because their players will be aiming for selection for the World Cup.''

Despite stepping out as a head coach at senior international level for the first time, Emblen will not be on unfamiliar ground, having visited the National Olympic Stadium before as a player for the Club World Cup and as a coach in the lead-up to the London Olympics. It will be the final game for the home side at the venue before the World Cup.

"I've had good experiences there and I'm familiar with the stadium and I like Tokyo so I'm not going into the unknown,'' said Emblen, who will be assisted by Junior All Whites coach Darren Bazeley.

"It's going to be an historic occasion and I'm honoured to be doing it. It's a privilege and I'm thankful I've been given the opportunity and I'll be doing my best to help the side be as ready as they can be to put in a good performance.''

The March 5 fixture against Japan, who are heading to this year's World Cup, honours an agreement to reschedule an international friendly the All Whites withdrew from due to safety concerns after the earthquake that struck the country in March 2011.

All Whites squad to play Japan in Tokyo on March 5: Glen Moss (c), Jacob Spoonley, Ben Sigmund, Bill Tuiloma, Storm Roux, Michael Boxall, Andrew Durante, Michael McGlinchey, Chris James, Ryan Thomas, Tim Payne, Cameron Howieson, Tyler Boyd, Shane Smeltz, Marco Rojas, Jeremy Brockie, Kosta Barbarouses, Chris Wood.

- NZ Herald

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