nzherald.co.nz has live updates of the All Whites’ clash against Mexico from 5pm today.
The rise of Chad Coombes could take a more dramatic step in Los Angeles tonight when the All Whites play Mexico in front of a huge crowd at the Pasadena Rose Bowl.
Coach Ricki Herbert has delayed naming his team until this morning, and as he intends using a mass of substitutions in this World Cup warm-up match, the significance of the starting line-up is somewhat reduced.
But the 26-year-old Coombes, a relief teacher, is under heavy consideration to take over the role assigned to Leo Bertos during the World Cup qualification matches against Bahrain, as a right sided wing-back.
Coombes received his international call-up only on Saturday, when he and clubmate Jason Hayne were added for this Mission Impossible against the Mexicans.
The Coombes calling card is a flash of magic, a la his world club championship wonder goal. Making his international debut in the land of opportunity, he has a plum chance to push for a World Cup spot, although this is a heck of a test against a Mexican team that will dominate possession.
Coombes is ultra-versatile. He is a wide striker for Auckland City, but also operates in midfield and believes his best international chance is at right back. Bertos survived, just, in his defensive duties against Bahrain but would be a major risk there in the World Cup finals. Coombes trained at length in the wing-back role yesterday.
Mexico will provide the All Whites with far more headaches than Bahrain and Herbert is likely to strengthen the midfield and play two recognised strikers rather than the three he used against Bahrain. Michael McGlinchey and Bertos will probably contest one of those midfield starting positions.
The starters will definitely include newcomer Tommy Smith, the 19-year-old who is on loan with English League One club Brentford.
Smith, who should be integral to the All Whites for years to come, is a fine prospect but his career has been badly affected by injuries and an inability to regain a place in Roy Keane's Ipswich after regaining his fitness.
A Mexican team of home-based players thrashed Bolivia - who are ranked far higher than the All Whites - by 5-0 last week, and coach Javier Aguirre has included a batch of European-based players for this game.
NZ v MEXICO
California, 5pm today live Sky
New Zealand (possible): Glen Moss, Ben Sigmund, Andrew Boyens, Tommy Smith, Tony Lochhead, Chad Coombes, Simon Elliott, Tim Brown (c), Leo Bertos, Chris Killen, Rory Fallon. Subs: James Bannatyne, Steven Old, Michael McGlinchey, Andrew Barron, Jason Hayne, Shane Smeltz, Chris Wood.
Mexico (possible): Jonathan Orozco, Carlos Salcido, Rafael Marquez, Hector Moreno, Efrain Juarez, Giovanni Dos Santos, Jonathan Dos Santos, Gerardo Torrado, Andres Guardado, Carlos Vela, Javier Hernandez.