All Whites coach Anthony Hudson has named an experienced squad for the build-up to the FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia.
The All Whites, who staged a training camp this week in Auckland, will face Northern Ireland, Dublin club side Carbinteely FC and Belarus in the lead-up to the ‘Tournament of Champions’ from 2 – 12 June.
Hudson believes he has named a 23-man squad, which will be the same for the FIFA Confederations Cup (announced on 8 June) barring injury, that can make a statement on the world stage.
“I am excited and quietly optimistic about our chances in Russia,” said Hudson. “I feel that we go into this tournament in a really strong position. We are focused on the task at hand, we are not going to get carried away with who we are playing, we know they are top teams but we are a strong team and we are going there focused on our jobs and the task. It is going to be an exciting tournament.”
Chris Wood, who won the Golden Boot in the English Championship for Leeds United this season, will captain the team in the absence of regular skipper Winston Reid (knee injury) and Hudson expects he will relish the challenge.
“I am so pleased for Woodsy and his success this year, it is nothing that he doesn’t deserve. We know what he can do in terms of consistency and the goals he has scored. We want him to lead the team as he always does, with pride and strong performances.”
Hudson said the 12 All Whites who have been based in Auckland this week have got the squad off to a great start. They head to Russia with clear intent of what they are trying to achieve. Hudson said it was a great opportunity for his players to make a name for themselves in elite company.
“We have a huge amount of respect for previous teams and what has been done before us but this team wants to go to this tournament and make history. We are not going to shy away from that. We want to go further than any New Zealand team has ever gone. We want to play some good football and make the country proud. We are serious that we want to go there and do something significant and we believe that we will.”
One of the notable inclusions is the return of Kosta Barbarouses who comes back into the fold after missing the FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Fiji in March.
“There has never been any doubt about Kosta’s ability,” said Hudson. “The most pleasing thing for me was since the conversation we had after he missed the March window, his performances were really strong, scored some goals and played really well. He was doing things that I was looking for previously. I want Kosta at his very best. On his day he can hurt any national team in the world and we want more of his best days. I know he will add to this squad immensely.”
Also making a return to the All Whites is Central Coast Mariners wing-back Storm Roux. The 24-year-old, who has played seven internationals for New Zealand, has not been in an All Whites squad since 2015 but has earnt his place in build-up to the FIFA Confederations Cup.
Dane Ingham, who made his international debut at the age of 17 in Wellington, has left a lasting impression on Hudson and he feels that he will enjoy performing on the big stage.
“He’s technically very good and physically he is an athlete. He is quick and he is strong for a 17-year-old. The qualities I am looking for are character and bravery and he showed that immensely on his debut for the Roar and for the All Whites. I don’t think anything at the Confederations Cup is going to faze him.”
His older brother Jai, who made his debut in the same match, has not been so lucky. Hudson said this is probably the hardest window in terms of decisions that he has had to make and that Jai could consider himself unfortunate.
“I have had some difficult conversations with players,” he said. “We want representing New Zealand to be something that is hard to achieve. Jai has been unfortunate. He is a really talented player and I expect him to be involved in the near future. There is huge competition and one or two players have done well and he has missed out.”
Hudson said the key to a successful build-up will be making sure that everyone is in a strong physical condition and they have the chance to build on the game plan, and also continue to develop their team values and spirit.
“We want to make sure that when people see us play on this tour they see certain traits about us. These qualities will give us the best possible chance of winning.”
All Whites squad for the pre tour of the FIFA Confederations Cup (Club, Country, Caps, Goals)
Stefan Marinovic (SpVgg Unterhaching, Germany) 14, 0
Tamati Williams (RKC Waalwijk, Netherlands) 1, 0
Glen Moss (Newcastle Jets, Australia) 29, 0
Andrew Durante (Wellington Phoenix, New Zealand) 15, 0
Thomas Doyle (Wellington Phoenix, New Zealand) 4, 0
Storm Roux (Central Coast Mariners, Australia) 7, 0
Michael Boxall (SuperSport Utd, South Africa) 22, 0
Kip Colvey (San Jose Earthquakes FC, USA) 8, 0
Themi Tzimopoulos (PAS Giannina FC, Greece) 10, 1
Deklan Wynne (Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Canada) 7, 0
Sam Brotherton (Sunderland AFC, England) 7, 0
Tommy Smith (Ipswich Town FC, England) 31, 2
Dane Ingham (Brisbane Roar FC, Australia) 1, 0
Bill Tuiloma (Marseille, France) 16, 0
Clayton Lewis (Auckland City FC, New Zealand) 8, 0
Michael McGlinchey (Wellington Phoenix, New Zealand) 42, 4
Ryan Thomas (PEC Zwolle, Netherlands) 9, 2
Marco Rojas (Melbourne Victory FC, Australia) 32, 5
Alex Rufer (Wellington Phoenix, New Zealand) 3, 0
Chris Wood (c) (Leeds Utd, England) 47, 19
Monty Patterson (Ipswich Town FC, England) 9, 1
Shane Smeltz (Borneo FC, Indonesia) 53, 24
Kosta Barbarouses (Wellington Phoenix FC) 37, 3
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)
Both of the internationals are live on SKY Sport
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