Steven Holloway is the football writer for the NZ Herald.

Steven Holloway: All Whites squad expected to pack surprises

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Glen Moss. Photo / Brett Phibbs.
Glen Moss. Photo / Brett Phibbs.

Who remembers Anthony Hudson and the All Whites?

It was four months ago that the New Zealand coach flagged down the media, bellowed his detestation at the All Whites' non-existent playing schedule and criticised the culture of football in this country.

He also questioned why, maelstroms of his own creation aside, there was so little analysis or coverage of the national team in the media.

But after New Zealand Football, once again, missed out on securing a fixture in the recent May international window, there have only been three games in the last 16 months to talk about, and those were against South Korea, Myanmar and Oman, played in the middle of the night, with half-strength squads to an apathetic audience.

But that's all about to change. In three weeks the All Whites travel to Papua New Guinea in an attempt to qualify for both the Confederations Cup and the World Cup. And the public will care.

Hudson will name his side for the Nations Cup on Thursday and the biggest bombshell is that first-choice goalkeeper Glen Moss will miss the tournament with an eye-injury.

Stefan Marinovic, Tamati Williams and Max Crocombe will attempt to fill his boots, but as assistant coach Alex Armstrong said today, "Mossy is a player with a lot of experience who has seen the good the bad and the ugly and will be missed."

In form striker Jeremy Brockie is also expected to be overlooked, along with Auckland City's Ryan De Vries, in favour of Bristol Rovers striker Rory Fallon and the Wellington Phoenix' Hamish Watson.

New Zealand's best three players won't be there with Winston Reid and Tommy Smith unavailable, though New Zealand Football have remained tight-lipped on why, and Ryan Thomas out through injury. It provides the platform for Andrew Durante to do his best Ivan Vicelich - return from retirement - impression.

With the eligibility circus now in New Zealand Football's rear-view mirror English born Sam Burfoot and South African born Deklan Wynne are back in contention, while Chris Wood will likely captain the side.

The All Whites' Nations Cup preparation (three training games in Brisbane against amateur opposition) is far from ideal, especially with a number of European based pros likely to only meet the squad in Papua New Guinea, but New Zealand should still take care of business in Port Moresby.

The Solomon Islands are not as strong as they were in 2012, Vanuatu appears inexperienced, Fiji often underperforms at major tournaments and New Caledonia will be solid, but with a major weakness in goal.

In tough PNG conditions, the All Whites may opt for a more direct strategy, similar to how the New Zealand under 23 side played in their Olympic Qualification tournament, using powerful front-men like Wood and Fallon to win the physical battle.

Hudson has used 38 players across his six games as All Whites coach (one win, two draws, three losses) but has yet to play a match with a full strength squad. It appears that wait will go on.

Possible 23-man All Whites squad for OFC Nations Cup:

GKs: Tamati Williams, Max Crocombe, Stefan Marinovic
Defenders: Deklan Wynne, Tom Doyle, Themi Tzimopoulos, Andrew Durante, Michael Boxall, Sam Brotherton, Louis Fenton, Kip Colvey

Midfielders: Michael McGlinchey, Marco Rojas, Kosta Barbarouses, Clayton Lewis, Sam Burfoot, Bill Tuiloma, Matt Ridenton, Te Atawhai Wihongi

Strikers: Chris Wood, Shane Smeltz, Hamish Watson, Rory Fallon

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Steven Holloway is the football writer for the NZ Herald.

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