Football: Chris Wood likely to play in semifinal

Chris Wood in action against New Caledonia. Photo / Getty
Chris Wood in action against New Caledonia. Photo / Getty

Chris Wood rates himself a 75 per cent chance of playing against New Caledonia in tomorrow's Oceania Nations Cup semifinal in Papua New Guinea and has more reason than most for wanting to play.

The 24-year-old striker suffered a painful shoulder injury in the 5-0 defeat of Vanuatu last week and it was initially thought he would miss the remainder of the tournament. Wood has recovered well, though, and is confident of playing New Caledonia.

Not only is Wood captain in the absence of regular skipper Winston Reid, but he also wants to exact revenge for the All Whites' shock 2-0 defeat to New Caledonia at the same stage of the Nations Cup in 2012 that coined the unflattering moniker Horror of Honiara.

"Everyone who was associated with that trip back then was devastated by what happened and we would like to put that right," Wood told Radio Sport.

The portents have been promising. The All Whites went through pool play as the only side in the competition with a perfect three wins from their three games. The quality of the island teams also seems to have dipped in the past four years but the stakes are high.

The Nations Cup winners will qualify for next year's Confederations Cup, which is seen as essential for New Zealand if they are to be any hope of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

The All Whites haven't played particularly good football in PNG, except for a good first half against Vanuatu, but have put substance above style. New Caledonia finished second in their group with a win and two draws and have quality in the shape of captain Bertrand Kai and Roy Kayara.

The second semifinal sees the hosts take on Solomon Islands. The final will be played on Saturday.

- NZ Herald

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