Rare chance for backup left-backs as All Whites squad named for January window

Liberato Cacace’s All Whites understudy are set to take advantage of the unusual timing of their upcoming fixtures against Uzbekistan and Jordan.

There is normally no international window in January, but Fifa added one to the calendar in 2022 following the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.

National teams from every continent except Europe are set to be in action next week, whether in World Cup qualifiers or friendlies, but most of Europe’s top leagues still have avoided scheduling meetings.

NEW ZEALAND FOOTBALL

All Whites manager Danny Hay unhappy with World Cup qualifying tournament format.

The Belgian Pro League, where Cacace plays for St. Truiden, is a notable exception, and while his clubs are still forced to release their players, All Whites manager Danny Hay hasn’t forced the issue.

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Only midfield pivot Joe Bell has played more minutes than Cacace in Hay’s first five games in charge, and his absence should give Francis de Vries and Dalton Wilkins a rare chance to claim their left-back rights .

Wilkins received a first call-up last October but suffered an injury on the eve of the window and did not make the trip to Bahrain, where the All Whites picked up victories over hosts and Caribbean nation Curacao.

De Vries was first called up in place of Wilkins in November and made his debut in stoppage time in their win over Gambia, after impressing with a no-cap win against Algeria A’.

Wilkins is one of five players included in the 23-man squad for the January international window who weren’t there in November.

Three other players who were – midfielder Matt Garbett and full-back Niko Kirwan, whose clubs, like Cacace’s, are playing out the window and would have liked them to stay, and striker Elliot Collier – have given up.

Hay hopes that treading lightly with Cacace, Garbett and Kirwan could now pay off in March when the All Whites have the Oceania World Cup qualifier in Qatar.

Their fixtures start ahead of this month’s window when clubs need to release players and letting this trio stay with their clubs in January could help get them there sooner.

Wellington Phoenix duo Clayton Lewis and Tim Payne have been called up now that Australia’s Covid-19 border restrictions have eased, while there are also recalls for centre-back Nikko Boxall, who was selected in October , but did not play, and striker Logan Rogerson, who has not been on an All Whites team since 2016.

Two other A-League players, Phoenix goalkeeper Oli Sail and Sydney FC striker Kosta Barbarouses, were known to be firmly on Hay’s radar but are currently injured.

The All Whites will meet in Abu Dhabi ahead of their game against Jordan next Friday [kickoff Saturday 4am NZ time] then travel to Dubai on the eve of their clash with Uzbekistan the following Tuesday [kickoff Wednesday 4am NZ time].

All Whites – January International Window

Team

Guardians: Stefan Marinovic, Jamie Searle, Michael Woud

Defenders: Michael Boxall, Nikko Boxall, Francis de Vries, Kelvin Kalua, Tim Payne, Nando Pijnaker, Winston Reid, Tommy Smith, Bill Tuiloma, Dalton Wilkins

Midfielders: Joe Bell, Clayton Lewis, Sarpreet Singh, Marko Stamenic

Forwards: Joey Champness, André de Jong, Elijah Just, Callum McCowatt, Logan Rogerson, Chris Wood

Calendar (the two New Zealand times)

Saturday, January 30, 4 a.m.: against Jordan; New York University Stadium, Abu Dhabi

Wednesday, February 2, 4 a.m.: against Uzbekistan; The Sevens Stadium, Dubai

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