The All Whites' search for consecutive World Cups enters a busy nine-day phase.
With two games against Tahiti, beginning with an away match in Papeete on Saturday before returning to Christchurch the following Tuesday, six points would bump New Zealand within touching distance of an inter-continental playoff for Brazil 2014.
World Cup qualification is crucial to New Zealand Football's financial state and the continuation of the game's upward momentum since a proud display in South Africa two years ago.
Entering the halfway mark of third-stage qualifying, the All Whites are top of a four-team Oceania round-robin ahead of New Caledonia, the Solomon Islands and winless Tahiti.
After the shock of a 2-0 Nations Cup defeat to New Caledonia in June, coach Ricki Herbert has been able to select an unchanged squad, having recently recovered for back-to-back wins against Pacific opponents.
Premier League star attractions Ryan Nelsen and Winston Reid, who was knocked unconscious last week in a match against Nelsen's Queens Park Rangers, are both included, while striker Chris Wood will be looking to continue his international strike rate, having found seven goals in his last six games in a New Zealand shirt.
Shane Smeltz will also feature. Smeltz's 21st and 22nd ‘A' international goals last month took him past Brian Turner and drew him level with Steve Sumner on the All Whites' all-time goal scorers list. Only Vaughan Coveny's tally of 28 is ahead of Smeltz.
Herbert said he is hopeful the squad can stay fully fit.
“Injuries are something we can't control and it's always in the back of your mind. Hopefully we are 100 per cent injury free after the weekend's matches and we can keep moving forward with the same settled squad,” Herbert said.
After this month's matches the All Whites complete the round-robin against New Caledonia and the Solomon Islands in March, with the winner of the group progressing to a two-legged intercontinental playoff against a North and Central American nation for a place at the World Cup.
Next Tuesday's game in Christchurch, which should be home-town captain Nelsen's 50th ‘A' international, will also renew interest in the topic of ticket sales and match promotion by NZ Football, following a sparse attendance for the All Whites' last home game against the Solomon Islands in Auckland last month.
- © Fairfax NZ News