Wood good to go; doubt over Smith

Otago Daily Times - - SPORT & RACING - JEFF CHESHIRE

WELLINGTON: All Whites boss An­thony Hud­son has backed star striker Chris Wood to start in this af­ter­noon’s World Cup in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal play­off against Peru, but is more cir­cum­spect on the chances of Tommy Smith.

The Burn­ley­based Wood came off the bench in Satur­day’s 0­0 first­leg draw in Wellington due to a ham­string is­sue, play­ing just 19 min­utes.

Yet de­spite con­tin­u­ing to feel tight­ness in his ham­string, Wood is more than likely to start the sec­ond leg in Lima as the All Whites chase a spot in Rus­sia.

Hud­son ad­mit­ted the 25­yearold poacher was among New Zealand’s more im­por­tant play­ers, with his strength, link­up play and fin­ish­ing con­sid­ered cru­cial — par­tic­u­larly in a caul­dron­like at­mos­phere.

But he would nev­er­the­less go into the sec­ond leg qui­etly con­fi­dent.

The likes of Marco Ro­jas, Kosta Bar­barouses and Clay­ton Lewis could also chip in with goals, while Shane Smeltz re­mained a bench op­tion.

‘‘We’re not putting all of our faith in Chris as we have lots of other play­ers who can score goals and have scored goals away from home against big teams, and caused prob­lems against big teams,’’ Hud­son said.

Wood, the side’s vice­cap­tain, would also add plenty of lead­er­ship and Pre­mier League­level ex­pe­ri­ence in a chal­leng­ing en­vi­ron­ment.

The in­jury for­tunes of Smith (27), how­ever, seem more grim.

With his side more than likely to adopt a con­ser­va­tive ap­proach in Lima, Hud­son ad­mit­ted his Ip­swich­based de­fender re­mained touch and go for the game.

He was taken off in the sec­ond half in Wellington with a calf com­plaint.

Hud­son said Smith would be rested yes­ter­day be­fore un­der­go­ing a fi­nal fit­ness test this morn­ing.

He has al­ready lost right back Storm Roux to a mi­nor an­kle prob­lem.

Peru striker Jef­fer­son Far­fan touched upon the im­por­tance of Smith and the side’s other rangy de­fend­ers in Los In­cas’ press con­fer­ence.

The five Kiwi de­fend­ers who started Satur­day’s first­leg draw mea­sured an av­er­age 1.84m, while the four Peru­vians who played up front av­er­aged 174cm. Smith stands 1.88m tall.

‘‘The fact is that this game is go­ing to be as hard and com­pli­cated as the game was in New Zealand, be­cause it’s not easy to play against the walls that make up their de­fence,’’ the Loko­mo­tiv Moscow­based Far­fan said. — NZNH

WHILE most of us in Otago will be cheer­ing on the All Whites this af­ter­noon, one Queen­stown foot­ball fan will be do­ing the op­po­site.

An­gel Maa­maai moved to New Zealand from Peru two years ago, but his loy­al­ties re­main with his home coun­try.

He is ex­cited about to­day’s game, in which the All Whites face Peru in Lima, with the win­ner set to ad­vance to next year’s World Cup.

While the 28­year­old is hope­ful of a Peru win, he was apolo­getic in giv­ing his score­line pre­dic­tion.

‘‘My score is two Peru and All Whites zero, I’m sorry,’’ he said.

He had made the most of hav­ing his home team in his adopted coun­try and trav­elled to Wellington for the first leg of the qual­i­fier on Satur­day.

That had been ‘‘amaz­ing’’, although the 0­0 re­sult had not been so pleas­ing.

It left Peru need­ing a win to­day to ad­vance to its first World Cup fi­nals since 1982.

While the home side will en­ter the match as favourite, Maa­maai said cap­tain Paolo Guer­rero’s pos­i­tive drug test was a big loss as he was im­por­tant to the team.

Orig­i­nally from Cusco, Peru, Maa­maai is en­joy­ing liv­ing in New Zealand and work­ing in a restau­rant.

He has no plans to leave either.

‘‘I want to stay in New Zealand; I love Kiwi peo­ple.’’

The game kicks off at 3.15pm this af­ter­noon as the All Whites look to qual­ify for their third World Cup.

A win would do that, but a goal­scor­ing draw would be enough, as away goals count for two when the ag­gre­gate score is tied.

The All Whites de­liv­ered a solid de­fen­sive per­for­mance in Wellington on Satur­day, although will be look­ing to show more of an at­tack­ing threat.

Hav­ing Chris Wood — who played just the last 15 min­utes on Satur­day due to in­jury — back in the start­ing line­up will be cru­cial for that.

How­ever, goals have been in many cases dif­fi­cult to come by in the World Cup qual­i­fiers, with sev­eral score­less draws in play­offs in the past week.

Up­sets have been prom­i­nent too, most no­tably with four­time win­ner Italy to miss its first World Cup fi­nals since 1958.

Oth­ers to not make the fi­nal cut have been the Nether­lands and the United States.

PHO­TOS: REUTERS

In the lion’s den . . . Cap­tain Win­ston Reid (left) and coach An­thony Hud­son at­tend a press con­fer­ence in Peru yes­ter­day.

A Peru­vian shaman in Lima car­ries a boa con­stric­tor yes­ter­day dur­ing a ri­tual in which he put a curse on the All Whites.

Chris Wood

Tommy Smith

PHOTO: TRACEY ROXBURGH

Go Peru . . . An­gel Maa­maai (28) shows his sup­port for Peru in Queen­stown yes­ter­day be­fore to­day’s match against the All Whites in Lima.

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