Nelsen to skipper All Whites in Christchurch
Ryan Nelsen has confirmed he wants to lead the All Whites in Christchurch on October 6.
The Queens Park Rangers defender told All Whites coach Ricki Herbert at the London Olympics that he wanted to represent New Zealand in their crucial Fifa World Cup qualifying matches, including a game against Tahiti at AMI Stadium.
It will be the first time that Nelsen has represented his country in his home town of Christchurch.
His father, Wayne Nelsen, said yesterday that he believed the previous team that Ryan, 34, had played for in the city was Woolston, the club he represented when he briefly returned home from the United States.
Six matches involving Oceania teams New Zealand, New Caledonia, Solomon Islands and Tahiti will be played between September 7 and March 26.
Under Fifa regulations, all players should be made available by their clubs for these fixtures.
New Zealand Football chief executive Grant McKavanagh expects highly regarded professionals such as Nelsen and Winston Reid, who plays for English premiership club West Ham, to front if they are fit. "The feedback we have had from Ricki is that Ryan is very keen to captain the team through all the qualifying games," McKavanagh said.
"He understands the importance of these games in regards to getting into the intercontinental playoffs. We will certainly be using the rights that we have under the Fifa window clauses to have our strongest team available.
"When Ricki was in England he met with most of our English-based professionals and Winston [Reid] was also one of them. Everybody is dead keen to get back for these games."
Winning the Oceania section will edge the All Whites closer to qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil; they would then progress to the playoffs against the fourth-placed qualifier from the North and Central American regions.
Having Nelsen back will allow Herbert to feel more secure after the All Whites bombed out of the Oceania Nations Cup tournament.
That dismal failure meant the All Whites failed to qualify for next year's Confederations Cup and blew a $1.8 million payout.
After that disastrous campaign, in which the All Whites were humiliated by a 2-0 loss to New Caledonia in the semifinal, former All Whites captain Danny Hay urged Herbert to resign. The return of Nelsen, who didn't play in those matches, may take some heat off Herbert.
"We need to put a team out there that can win every game," McKavanagh said. "It is important that people understand there are no easy-beats in world football any more and the 12th man [home crowds] is vitally important for us so the team can go out there and do a job.
"We need to create as hostile an environment as possible for anyone coming to New Zealand to play."
Herbert helped Neil Emblen prepare the Oly-Whites at the Olympics. Nelsen played but Reid was unavailable because he was trying to impress West Ham in the final stage of their off-season programme.
The match against Tahiti will be the first All Whites match in the South Island since a 1-0 win over Malaysia at QEII Park in February 2006.
The venue for New Zealand's third home qualifier on March 22 has yet to be decided.
Meanwhile, Oly-Whites goal scorer Chris Woods has been told by West Bromwich Albion he can leave either on loan or permanently.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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