The All Whites have two glamour ties in the next two months with games against top-ranked Belgium and world number four England scheduled for October and November and two more fixtures set to be added. However, travel restrictions mean coach Danny Hay will likely select a squad from players based only in Europe. Jason Pine looks at who might pull on the white shirt for these blockbuster matches.
Michael Woud, on loan at Almere City FC in the Dutch second tier, is the front-runner between the sticks. AFC Wimbledon's Nik Tzanev is another candidate, having debuted for the All Whites two years ago while Cam Hogg is in Sweden with Umea FC. Established number one Stefan Marinovic is holidaying in Germany in the A-League's off-season, so Hay may check in to see if he's packed his boots and gloves.
Centre back is the position of greatest concern with established internationals Winston Reid, Michael Boxall and Bill Tuiloma all US-based. Boxall's brother Nikko played three times for the All Whites in 2018 and should earn a call-up from his Finnish club, SJK Seinajöki. Veteran Tommy Smith, a former All Whites captain, will also be in the mix, having recently joined Colchester United in England's League Two.
There are high hopes for Nando Pijnaker who's penned a deal with Rio Ave in Portugal, while his partner at the under-20 World Cup last year George Stanger is in Scotland with Hamilton Academicals. If Hay wants to lean on experience, he can always call on Poland-based Themi Tzimopoulos who played the last of his 14 internationals three years ago, or even Steven Old, currently with East Kilbride, who hasn't played for the All Whites since 2009.
Libby Cacace's recent move to Belgian club STVV means he'll fill the left back spot and will have just a one-hour train ride to Brussels for the game against Belgium next month. A maiden call-up is also possible for under-20 international Dalton Wilkins, who is playing for FC Helsingor in Denmark. Right back is more of a problem with none of Tim Payne, Noah Billingsley, Storm Roux or Louis Fenton available, which may hand an opportunity to Niko Kirwan who recently won promotion to Italy's Serie B with his side Reggiana. Former age-group international Jesse Edge is in Sweden with IFK Berga and may also be in contention for his first squad inclusion.
You can write down these three names straight away – Joe Bell, Ryan Thomas and Sarpreet Singh. Even with everyone available, that exciting trio is Hay's preferred midfield and started together against Ireland a year ago. Bell is playing every week for Viking in Norway while Thomas and Singh are about to begin their seasons with PSV and Nurnberg (on loan from Bayern Munich) in the Netherlands and Germany.
Highly regarded teenager Marko Stamenic is also in line for his first call-up after signing with FC Copenhagen in Denmark, while an outsider may be fellow Ole Academy graduate Owen Parker-Price who plies his trade with Torslanda IK in Sweden. Veteran Michael McGlinchey is without a club, but has been training with Scottish side Greenock Morton and Hay may decide his 55 caps of experience are well worth having on board.
New Zealand's best player Chris Wood will spearhead the attack and captain the side, enjoying the special thrill of leading his country at Wembley where he may come up against his Burnley teammate Nick Pope in goal for England. Callum McCowatt – who scored on debut for New Zealand last year – has recently moved from the Phoenix to FC Helsingor in Denmark and he'll be joined by new team-mate and long-time friend Elijah Just.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
Elliot Collier, Andre de Jong and Marco Rojas will all be missing, so Joel Stevens – in excellent form for Swedish outfit Varnamo – may earn his first cap since 2015 while Max Mata, with Grasshopper Zurich, could add to the All Whites debut he made off the bench against Lithuania in November. Another option is former under-17 New Zealand striker Matt Garbett who is on the books of Falkenbergs in Sweden.
Possible starting XI: Woud; Kirwan, N.Boxall, Smith, Cacace; Bell, Thomas, Singh; McCowatt, Wood, Just.