All Whites game against Tahiti 'could sell-out'
It would appear a tad ambitious, but New Zealand Football boss Grant McKavanagh sees no reason why next Tuesday's World Cup qualifier between the All Whites and Tahiti at AMI Stadium can't sell-out.
As of yesterday about 4500 tickets had been pre-sold for the Christchurch fixture, a figure which Mc Kavanagh described as ''very encouraging'' this far out from the match.
It certainly looks good against Auckland, who had a total of 4000 pre-sold tickets for the 6-1 rout against the Solomon Islands at North Harbour Stadium last month.
Aucklanders were put on notice before the match, and the total crowd of 7900 will have done little to strengthen their claims for future matches.
Christchurch has a prime opportunity to do just that, in what will also be captain Ryan Nelsen's first match in his home city, his 50th A-international for New Zealand, and the city's first All Whites match since a 1-0 win against Malaysia at QEII Park in 2006.
McKavanagh is hopeful of a crowd of 12,000-13,000, more than the 10,000 who turned up six years ago, but has his fingers crossed the 17,000-seat stadium will sell out.
''We'd like to see the place full, there's no reason why it can't be full,'' he said yesterday. ''You've got to aim high to get high, but anywhere around the 12,000-13,000 mark would be good.
''The Christchurch people are certainly supporting it. To have that many pre-sales at this stage is extremely encouraging.''
Meanwhile, All Whites assistant coach Neil Emblen believes the short three-day turnaround between the two qualifying matches will suit New Zealand considerably more than Tahiti.
Given Tahiti is almost a day behind New Zealand time, it has made the already short turnaround between the two internationals even trickier, with the first match on Saturday (NZT) in Papeete and the return leg next Tuesday. And there's also the travel factor.
''I think our players will be in a better physical condition to do it than their players,'' Emblen said. ''They know how to look after themselves after games, they've got good medical staff and they're used to backing up in Europe.
It shouldn't affect us too much.''Even if it does, Emblen acknowledged New Zealand's depth is such that rotation is a viable option. He pointed to the example of Jeremy Brockie, who was excellent against New Caledonia in Noumea last month but wasn't used at all against the Solomons four days later.
Emblen was fully aware of the points situation; two wins against Tahiti could secure a berth in the World Cup intercontinental playoff against the fourth-best team from CONCACAF (North and Central America, and the Caribbean) next year, depending on the results of the New Caledonia-Solomons matches on the same days.
The All Whites assembled in Auckland yesterday, minus defender Winston Reid who has remained in England to have scans after suffering from back spasms in Sunday's 3-1 English Premier League loss to Arsenal.
''We're very hopeful of getting him down, if not directly to Tahiti to play then down for the Christchurch game,'' McKavanagh said.
''Winston wants to be here, he's just got to get through the scan and make sure there's nothing untoward in it. It's pretty positive.''