All Whites to do without A-League players for the first time since the start of the competition
Danny Hay will announce an All Whites squad made up entirely of players based in Europe and the United States this week, as the men’s national soccer team prepares to return to action for the first time in nearly 700 days.
The isolation and quarantine requirements managed in New Zealand and Australia made it impossible for players from A-League clubs to participate, but with around 40 players now practicing professionally in the Northern Hemisphere, this presents less of a challenge than it could have been. in the recent past.
Since the start of the A-League in 2005, with the New Zealand Knights for two seasons, then Wellington Phoenix, since 2007, as New Zealand’s only professional men’s football team, at least one player in this competition has took the field in each of the 94 games the All Whites have played.
That will change on October 10 [NZ time] when they face the small Caribbean nation of Curacao and repeat three days later when they face Bahrain for the first time since winning in November 2009 to qualify for the 2010 World Cup, with a starting XI made up of seven A-League players.
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Those who could have been called up include forward Ben Waine, midfielders Clayton Lewis and Ben Old, defenders Callan Elliot, Louis Fenton, James McGarry, Tim Payne and Sam Sutton, and goalkeepers Alex Paulsen and Oli Sail at Wellington Phoenix.
Further on is Sydney FC striker Kosta Barbarouses, who has not played for the All Whites since winning the last of his 47 caps in the Intercontinental World Cup qualifying second leg against Peru in November 2017; back Dane Ingham with the Newcastle Jets; and Melbourne Victory midfielder Marco Rojas.
Hay said with the border restrictions on either side of the Tasman beyond anyone’s control, there was no reason for him or any of the players involved to dwell on them.
“They are disappointed that they cannot be involved. I’m disappointed that we can’t pick everyone we can possibly pick, but that’s just the nature of the world we’re living in right now and it’s not going to last forever.
“The good thing is that the A-League kicks off in November. It will go forward. They’re going to be playing football regularly. We’re still going to be able to watch them and as things change we can very quickly bring in players.
“We have players operating in that part of the world – Australia, New Zealand – who are very capable of not only being members of the squad but also potentially starters.”
The right-back is where the absence of A-League players has probably caused Hay the most headaches, with Elliot, Fenton and Payne at the Phoenix; Ingham with the Jets; and Storm Roux, who is currently without a club after leaving Melbourne Victory at the end of last season, among the main options in this area of the park.
Niko Kirwan, the son of former All Black John Kirwan, is expected to receive his second call-up from the All Whites as a result, and will likely make his debut, having made a strong start to the season with Padova in Serie C, the third Italian. stage.
The A-League players are expected to be out of action for November, when the All Whites are expected to play again, but Hay and the players concerned are hopeful that the situation could change by March, when they are ready to begin their short campaign of qualification. for next year’s World Cup with an Oceania region tournament in Qatar.
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Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay said this week that he “will cross that bridge when he comes” as there are still a lot of details to be worked out, including the format of this tournament, but said he won’t. would not interfere with his participating players.
“Obviously we’ll have a discussion with Danny and what the team looks like for him and who he wants to take.
“At the end of the day, I won’t stop any player from representing their country – it is one of the greatest honors to be able to represent your country.
“We will be looking at this closer to the date and there will be discussions with Danny on what it looks like.”
The Phoenixes are expected to boost the All Whites’ pool of players by increasing the number of New Zealanders in professional environments, as Talay prepares to take several members of the club’s academic program to New South Wales, where they will begin their A-League Campaign on November 21, and be based until January at the earliest.