Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Football: All Whites back in the spotlight

New Zealand's Chris Wood celebrates his goal at the 2016 OFC Nations Cup semi Final. Photo / Shane Wenzlick - phototek.nz.
New Zealand's Chris Wood celebrates his goal at the 2016 OFC Nations Cup semi Final. Photo / Shane Wenzlick - phototek.nz.

The pay-off from winning the Oceania Nations Cup has already begun for New Zealand Football.

Today it was confirmed the All Whites will take on Mexico in Nashville, Tennesse, in October.

It's a significant coup and continues an association with El Tri, with four matches against the North American side in the last six years.

The fact the All Whites are one of eight teams at next year's Confederations Cup - thanks to the penalty shootout win over Papua New Guinea - has helped to put them back in the spotlight.

It makes sense for Mexico to face a potential group rival and it's likely there will be another glamour friendly on the table next year ahead of the tournament in Russia. It's a contrast to recent All Whites opposition, which included Thailand, Myanmar and Brisbane's Redlands United.

"It's a big game for us, a big step," said All Whites coach Anthony Hudson. "It's the best option for us [to prepare] what we might face next year [in the intercontinental playoff]."

Mexico are ranked 14th in the world and have beaten the likes of Paraguay and Uruguay this year, although they suffered an embarrassing 7-0 defeat to Chile in June's Copa America semifinal.

Hudson expects to assemble his strongest team "in two years" to face Mexico, although controversial defender Tommy Smith won't be part of it. Hudson will visit England next month but says meeting with Smith, who ruled himself out of contention ahead of the Nations Cup, isn't on his agenda.

"[I've got] no plans to see him," said. "It will be a quick trip to see a few senior players and then some coaching study. I haven't had any communication with Tommy. The last time was a couple of text messages before the Nations Cup."

Hudson expects all of the other European-based professionals, including Winston Reid, Ryan Thomas and Chris Wood, to be available.

"Barring injury, we will have six or seven players coming back into the squad, players who haven't been with us for a while," he said. "It will be the healthiest squad [in terms of competition] since I have been here."

Hudson has capped a huge number of players in two years, probably more than Ricki Herbert did in almost a decade. Some have never been seen again while others, like Clayton Lewis, Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi, Henry Cameron and Themi Tzimopoulos have broadened the depth of playing stocks considerably.

"It's not just been two years of experimenting," said Hudson. "That has been part of that, where we have looked at young players and brought some in, but we have also lost players and we had an eligibility issue. We had to cover a lot of players who have been unavailable.

"It's been a transitional two years where, at times, we have made some changes and go with what we have got. In the next phase that has to change and it will change. I've got some big decisions to make."

All Whites v Mexico
Year Result Winner Venue
2013 4-2 Mexico Wellington
2013 5-1 Mexico Mexico City
2011 3-0 Mexico Denver
2010 2-0 Mexico Los Angeles
1980 4-0 New Zealand Auckland

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf04 at 07 Dec 2016 10:14:41 Processing Time: 947ms