Plenty of options for Anthony Hudson
No one should get too carried away after Friday's 6-1 win over the Solomon Islands, as the level of opposition will be vastly different in November against the fifth placed South American team, but things are coming together nicely for the New Zealand side. Chris Wood and Ryan Thomas are in career best form, and Storm Roux made a confident return to the international arena on Friday night.
Add in Winston Reid, Tommy Smith, Marco Rojas and evergreen Shane Smeltz to the current mix, as well as Clayton Lewis and Bill Tuiloma, and coach Anthony Hudson will have the right kind of headache before settling on his best XI in November.
Musa makes welcome return
Of all the positives from Friday's win, the presence of James Musa in an All Whites shirt again was one of the most welcome.
Musa has been one of the forgotten men of New Zealand football over the last few years. He was once a shining star, winning a contract with English Premier League club Fulham as a 20-year-old, after appearing for New Zealand at the 2012 Olympics, but has bounced around many clubs since then.
Friday's match was his first game for the All Whites since the 2014 friendly against South Africa, but he took his chance to impress.
The Sporting Kansas City player showed good distribution from a holding midfield position with some slide rule passes, and his bounding stride enabled him to cover any Solomon's counter attacks.
Expect Musa to start on Tuesday in Honiara, as coach Anthony Hudson is likely to rest Michael McGlinchey who is on a yellow card.
Solomons' coach wins admirers
Solomons Islands coach Felipe Vega-Arango impressed with his candidness and honesty after the one sided match.
He made the rare admission that the tie was over after the 6-1 first leg result- most coaches normally like to cling to some hope, even publicly - and wasn't afraid to emphasise the gulf in class.
"There is not much to say - they were much better than us," said Vega-Arango. "We're an amateur team, they are professional. 6-1, it could have been 9-1. I'm not afraid to admit it, because I think [goalkeeper] Philip Mango made some really good saves. It's pretty obvious. I shouldn't say this but this is kind of over. We are not going to beat New Zealand 5-0."
He also added some levity to the situation, when asked if he expected there would be a big welcome at the airport when the team returned home.
"I don't think so," said Vega-Arango. "If the national team loses 6-1, if you are waiting for them to cheer them on, maybe you are a freak or something...I don't know?"
Vega-Arango and his team were at Auckland airport at 4am on Saturday morning, for their flight back, via Australia.