Football: Chris Wood leaving All Whites camp, will miss final

Chris Wood celebrates his goal at the OFC Nations Cup semifinal. Photo / Supplied
Chris Wood celebrates his goal at the OFC Nations Cup semifinal. Photo / Supplied

The All Whites have suffered a blow ahead of Saturday's Oceania Nations Cup final with captain Chris Wood flying home to the UK.

The 24-year-old has a family wedding to attend in New Zealand on the same day, which was arranged some 12 months earlier aligned to the international dates available at that time.

"I'm gutted I won't be able to take part in the final but my sister's wedding is something I've looked forward to for a very long time and it's something that is very important to me," Wood said. "My family is the most important thing in my life and to be there is a massive thing for me. I'm gutted to be missing the final but sometimes it can't be helped."

The Leeds United striker has been in constant communication with All Whites coach Anthony Hudson throughout his decision-making process and stated early on that he wished to attend the wedding. Hudson selected Wood as he believed he would play a key role in helping the All Whites reach the final and the striker has done exactly that, scoring four goals to help his side reach their first OFC Nations Cup final since 2002.

"It's unfortunate, he's the captain and is an incredibly important player for us," Hudson said. "It was an ongoing discussion - he came to me a long time ago but as you get nearer to a tournament you want to try to see if there are any other options. You think maybe Chris will come in and, with more discussions, you might be able to sway him the other way.

"But once I'd heard it from his mouth and seen in his face what it meant to him it was no problem with me. We knew this was going to happen but we also knew he was going to help us get to the final and he's done that."

Hudson said it has been a very tough decision for his skipper. He said Wood showed how much playing for the All Whites means to him by playing through the pain of a shoulder injury to help the team make the final.

"Everyone is behind Chris and are now fully focused on the game. The team were vocal in saying they want to win this tournament for him - showing how much they value their captain and that they are fully behind him."

- NZ Herald

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