Reasons to believe in an All Whites win
Reasons to believe in an All Whites win
Anthony Hudson is set to spring a couple of surprises in his team to face Peru today by taking a punt on youth.
This afternoon’s clash is the biggest All Whites match in four years — and the biggest on home soil since the epic encounter with Bahrain in 2009, given the clash with Mexico in Wellington in 2013 was essentially a dead rubber.
It will be a day for calm heads and cool nerves as players try to ignore what is at stake and get on with the job.
Despite that, Hudson is set to hand a starting position to 20-year-old Clayton Lewis in midfield. Lewis missed the recent friendly with Japan as he had just joined Scunthorpe United in League One, and in September was a controversial omission from the squad to face the Solomon Islands due to fitness and conditioning issues.
But he was one of the standout performers at the 2017 Confederations Cup, especially in the 2-1 loss to Mexico, where he created Chris Wood’s goal and set up another great chance for the Burnley striker.
That kind of performance on the big stage, and his ability to hold possession in tight areas, should see him preferred to Kosta Barbarouses in midfield.
Barbarouses had a poor last season with the Wellington Phoenix and is still recovering his confidence back at the Melbourne Victory.
Lewis is likely to start alongside Michael McGlinchey and Ryan Thomas, with Marco Rojas pairing with Chris Wood up front.
The other key decision was around the wing backs. It’s believed that Deklan Wynne will start at left back, while Kip Colvey is set to be the surprise inclusion on the right. He has had a mixed career on the big stage, but is one of the fittest and fastest players in the All Whites squad. Colvey, who has won 13 caps, had his best performance against the United States last year, and also featured in four games at the 2016 Nations Cup in Papua New Guinea.
But the 23-year-old struggled against Russia in the Confederations Cup and didn’t figure prominently in the recent qualifiers against the Solomons Islands.
Colvey has been preferred ahead of Dane Ingham, who has potential but is still quite raw, while Storm Roux is believed to be not fully fit.
Winston Reid, Michael Boxall and
Tommy Smith will round out the back three, with Reid’s experience vital for some of the relatively raw players around him.
“I think it’s just about giving guidance to the younger players in the group and helping them through situations. There’s going to be tricky moments out there,” said Reid.
“I’d be more nervous if we didn’t prepare right. We’ve done all our homework.
“That gives me good confidence in the group. It’s a game and we have to go out and execute the gameplan and go out and play to our strengths.”
Since arriving in New Zealand for their World Cup playoff, Peru’s players have responded cautiously to the same question. Not about who might play, but who will not.
Paolo Guerrero, Peru’s captain and leading scorer, is missing while provisionally suspended for failing a doping test following the World Cup qualifier against Argentina.
The absence of the striker is the biggest setback Peru face as they try to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in 35 years.
There are also the formidable obstacles of travel, time zones and climate which make the match against the All Whites more difficult than it might look on paper for 10th-ranked Peru.
Peru’s players have tried sleep deprivation techniques to acclimatise to a new time zone and have padded themselves lavishly against strong winds and cool temperatures.
But Guerrero’s absence has been the recurring theme. He scored six times in South American qualifiers and led his team to fifth place.
Peru’s football association will challenge his suspension with the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland and, if successful, will have him for the return leg in Lima on November 16.
For now, the South Americans have done their best to treat persistent questions about their captain with respect but indifference.
Additional reporting AP