By Michael Burgess in St Petersburg

On the evidence of the past week in Russia, All Whites midfielder Ryan Thomas won't stay under the radar for much longer.

The 22-year-old has been the standout player for the New Zealand side at the Confederations Cup, hitting his best form at the optimal time.

He hasn't lost anything in comparison with the highly-rated players who have faced him and his ability to find time and space at this level has been a revelation.


It has been rare for New Zealand footballers down the years; the capacity to thrive in crowded midfield areas on the highest stage, make good decisions with and without the ball and have the speed of thought to take up the right positions.

But Thomas - based on his performances against Russia and Mexico - has those qualities in abundance.

"He's been outstanding, he is a world class player," said All Whites captain Chris Wood, who has known Thomas for almost a decade.

"He's top notch for a very young man. He's had a great couple of seasons over in Holland and he is stepping up on the world stage. The world is his oyster."

Before the events of the past eight days, Thomas had a relatively low profile in New Zealand football circles. His accomplishments with PEC Zwolle in the Dutch first division were worthy, but Zwolle is an unfashionable provincial club in a league which does not get televised widely across the world.

Thanks to an awful run with injuries, he had also barely played for the national side in the past two seasons.

Thomas showed a glimpse of his potential against Fiji in Wellington in March, with an all-action display including a brace, but Russia has been the fruiting of the vine.

Thomas had an outstanding match against the host nation, at the centre of most of New Zealand's best attacking movements and coming close to a spectacular goal late in the second half, with his half volley from the edge of the area forcing an impressive save from the Russian keeper.


Thomas also displayed a high work rate, tracking back in defence with timely clearances and tackles.

The Mexican match was another step up. He was part of an All Whites midfield that clicked memorably on the night and again impressed with his movement and option taking.

He had a key role in Chris Wood's goal - especially the instant one touch pass from Andrew Durante's header that put Marco Rojas in space - and in the second half was centimetres away from what would have been one of the most memorable goals in All Whites history.

He struck the crossbar with a shot from just inside the area, after weaving into space.

He was already set to leave Zwolle this summer, but his performances in Russia may have added some additional suitors to the process.

But Thomas is likely to stay in Holland, and won't rush into a decision.

"The most important thing is to be playing every week," Thomas told the Herald on Sunday earlier this year. "That's how you keep developing ... you need to be somewhere when you are starting every week."

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