New Zealand recalls attacking trio for Mexico playoff
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) - The attacking trio of Shane Smeltz, Chris Wood and Marco Rojas has been recalled as New Zealand attempts to increase its firepower for the first leg of a World Cup intercontinental qualifier against Mexico on Nov. 13.
All three missed New Zealand's recent friendly against Trinidad and Tobago with injuries and, in their absence, a depleted New Zealand team was held to 0-0 draw. Scotland-based striker Rory Fallon, whose playoff goal against Bahrain in 2010 sent New Zealand to the World Cup in South Africa, was recalled for the Trinidad and Tobago match and holds his place in the squad. Fullback Storm Roux, from Australia's A-League champion Central Coast club, has won his first international selection.
New Zealand travels to Los Angeles on Nov. 9 to prepare for the first leg at Mexico City's Estadio Azteca four days later. The teams meet again in the return leg at Wellington on Nov. 20.
Coach Ricki Herbert said the return of Australia-based Smeltz, Leicester City's Wood and Rojas, who plays for Stuttgart, was a significant boost for the Oceania confederation champions who need to beat Mexico, which placed fourth in the CONCACAF region, to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
''Their return points to the fact that we're developing a very competitive squad,'' Herbert said.
Herbert said the selection of the 20-year-old Roux, who has started all four A-League matches this season for Central Coast, also increased pressure on incumbent players.
''Storm is playing in the A-League for a side that has done exceptionally well in the competition,'' he said. ''He's come into the ...competition champions and secured a starting spot.
Central Coast coach ''Graham Arnold speaks highly of him,'' Herbert said. ''He's athletically a player who can get forward and he will put pressure on the likes of Tony Lochhead and Leo Bertos, because he's able to play down both sides. I've also been impressed with his one-on-one defending as well.''
Herbert said New Zealand was fortunate to have the experience of playing in an intercontinental qualifying playoff. In 2010, New Zealand qualified for the finals by beating Bahrain 1-0 in Wellington after the teams drew 0-0 in the Bahrain capital Manama.
He said Mexico would be aware of the importance of the home leg.
''The home fixture is ultra-important and after watching them against Finland move numbers forward quickly (in a 4-2 win) I'm sure they'll try to set the tie alight and score goals in that first leg,'' Herbert said. ''That presents a strong challenge for us but also a good one. If we can be tight and very resolute we can put ourselves in a position to showcase our talents at home in the second leg.''
New Zealand squad:
Goalkeepers: Glen Moss, Jacob Spoonley, Tamati Williams.
Defenders: Andrew Durante, Tony Lochhead, Winston Reid, Storm Roux, Ben Sigmund, Tommy Smith, Bill Tuiloma, Ivan Vicelich.
Midfielders: Leo Bertos, Aaron Clapham, Jeremy Christie, Craig Henderson, Chris James, Michael McGlinchey.
Forwards: Kosta Barbarouses, Jeremy Brockie, Rory Fallon, Marco Rojas, Shane Smeltz, Chris Wood.