When All Whites skipper Chris Wood walks out to a near capacity Krestovsky Stadium in St Petersburg tonight for the opening game of the FIFA Confederations Cup he will mark a special milestone in his career.
The 25-year-old will earn his 50th international cap for New Zealand, becoming only the 15th player to do so, and it is also believed that he will be the youngest player to the mark in All Whites’ history.
New Zealand are competing at the ‘Tournament of Champions’ for the fourth time and the OFC Nations Cup champions are looking to create further history by winning their first match at the tournament against World No 63 Russia.
Wood said it will be the biggest audience he has ever walked out to as skipper of the national team and earning his 50th cap will make it even more special.
“It is a huge milestone for me,” said the striker, who won the Golden Boot with Leeds United in the English Championship this season. “I never thought I would be anywhere near this as a kid growing up. To hit 50 so young in my career it is a great achievement. I’ll be very happy to do so and hopefully we can cap it off with a win.”
Wood, who made his debut in 2009 against Tanzania, joins an elite club in New Zealand Football. Ivan Vicelich (88), Simon Elliott (69), Ricki Herbert (61), Vaughan Coveny (64), Chris Jackson (60) Brian Turner (59), Steve Sumner (58), Chris Zoricich (58), Duncan Cole (58), Ceri Evans (56), Leo Bertos (56), Shane Smeltz (55), Michael McGarry (54) and Adrian Elrick (53) are the players before him who have reached the 50-club.
“It is a limited number of people who have [played 50 times for New Zealand] in the men’s game. Only 15 people. A lot of great players before me as well on that list. To go on and do bigger and better things for this team would be great.”
All Whites coach Anthony Hudson said the accolades which Wood has received this year have been nothing less than he deserves after his unwavering commitment to the national team.
“He has had an unbelievable year with what he did in the Championship,” he said. “Since I have been in New Zealand, Woodsy has been the captain for probably 80 percent of the time. He has been a huge help to me and a massive positive influence on the rest of the players. The players all look up to him.
“It’s a great moment for him but the best thing about our team is we are totally a team and I am sure you will see that on the pitch.”
Hudson will make his own history tonight at Krestovsky Stadium. At 36 years and 98 days old, Hudson will be the youngest coach in FIFA Confederations Cup history when his team takes on the hosts Russia on 18 June (NZT) in the ‘Tournament of Champions’.
That record currently belongs to former Nigeria coach Shaibu Amodu, who was 36 years and 263 days old when he managed his country at the 1995 FIFA Confederations Cup.
“I haven’t focused on it too much. I would much rather be not [the youngest coach ever] and get a win. That really means nothing to me unless we get something out of the game.”
The All Whites open the FIFA Confederations Cup against hosts Russia at 6pm local time (3am NZT).