All Whites coach Anthony Hudson has some tough decisions to make as he settles on his squad for the pre tour to the FIFA Confederations Cup.
The national coach, who will become the youngest coach in FIFA Confederations Cup when the All Whites open the tournament against hosts Russia on 18 June (NZT), has settled on all but one or two of his selections in his 23-man squad for the pre tour and the ‘Tournament of Champions’.
This week’s training camp is all about putting the final pieces in the puzzle. Hudson said the camp, which includes 12 players in contention for the squad, is all about conditioning and bedding down the game plan so they are ready to fire against Northern Ireland on 3 June (NZT) in Belfast.
“This week is vital for us,” Hudson told a media scrum today in Auckland. “From [Monday] to the way it was [on Tuesday] I can see huge improvement already. If we can keep improving every day then when we get over there we will have a core of players who are switched on to what we want to do.”
Hudson said it is a tricky time of year to select his squad because the A-League season has finished and that is why this week is important to check the conditioning levels and mental state of his players. He came into the week pretty sure of his 23 players and he will confirm the touring party at the end of the week.
“I have a really good idea [of who I am picking]. There are one or two players that I want to have a look at. Before I make my final call I really needed to see with my own eyes how people showed up.”
Andrew Durante, who captained the All Whites in their most recent international the 2-0 win over Fiji in Wellington to confirm a place in the final stage of OFC Qualifying, said the intensity at the camp has been high because everyone knows they are fighting for their place.
“Every camp you come into is full on,” said the 35-year-old who has played 15 times for New Zealand. “Everyone is scrapping and fighting for positions and there’s nowhere to hide. You’re getting filmed and everything is being watched so it’s up to the players and the gaffer makes it clear that you’re not guaranteed a spot – you have to fight for it. You have to show that at training and it’s great, we all love coming into camp and trying to seal a position. It’s good camaraderie to have inside the team.”
Hudson has been impressed by the attitude and application of the All Whites contenders at this camp.
“I think the players all know how big this tournament is and they made sure they looked after themselves and turned up here in good shape.”
Hudson also has a keen eye on the New Zealand U-20 squad competing at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in the Korea Republic and they will factor into his squad selections for the pre tour and the FIFA Confederations Cup.
There are five All Whites within Darren Bazeley’s squad and Hudson may opt to bring them out of the tournament early to make sure they are available for the Northern Ireland fixture.
“The first team is obviously the main team and we just need to see how they go in their next game,” he said. “The Northern Ireland game, we don’t have the luxury of treating it like a friendly. It is an important part of our Confederations Cup and the Confederations Cup is important for September and then November. We don’t want to be sitting here in November and thinking if only we did that game properly. We have to do everything properly.”
Durante feels the same way and after coming out of international retirement, the Wellington Phoenix skipper cannot wait to compete against some of the world’s best teams. In the absence of Winston Reid, Durante will play a key role in the heart of the New Zealand defence.
“It’s a big international tournament and, obviously at my age, it’s probably the last major tournament for me. So I’m looking to make the most of it and enjoy the ride, as well as making sure I’m helping the younger players and doing my usual leadership role.”
All Whites fixtures pre-FIFA Confederations Cup
2 June v Northern Ireland in Belfast, Northern Ireland (3 June NZT)
6 June v Cabinteely FC in Dublin, Republic of Ireland (7 June NZT)
12 June v Belarus in Minsk, Belarus (13 June NZT)
2017 FIFA Confederations Cup – All Whites draw
17 June 6pm (3am 18 June NZT) v Russia, Krestovsky Stadium, St Petersburg
21 June 9pm (6am 22 June NZT) v Mexico Fisht Olympic Stadium, Sochi
24 June 6pm (3am 25 June NZT) v Portugal, Krestovsky Stadium, St Petersburg
All FCC matches live on SKY Sport