Sigmund hopes he'll get first cap, vs Tahiti

TONY SMITH
Last updated 05:00 15/10/2012
Ben Sigmund
DEREK FLYNN/Fairfax NZ
HOME TURF: Ben Sigmund never dreamt he would be playing against a team in red and black on his Christchurch home turf.

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Wellington Phoenix defender Ben Sigmund's headed goal in Tahiti may have boosted his hopes of a winning his first cap on Canterbury soil tomorrow, alongside his former Christchurch United clubmate Ryan Nelsen.

Coach Ricki Herbert, who will decide his starting lineup today, admitted "Siggy was awesome, he took his chance really well".

Shane Smeltz gave the All Whites a 1-0 buffer in the 24th minute on Saturday night with his 23rd international goal to join Christchurch-based 1982 World Cup finals great Steve Sumner's in joint second place on the all-time scorers' chart.

But the All Whites weren't able to completely relax until Sigmund nodded home a Tony Lochhead corner in the 82nd minute.

"Someone just needed to put the nail in the coffin. I got sick of the strikers missing, so I thought I'd better do it myself," Sigmund quipped.

With Nelsen and fellow English premier league star Winston Reid injured, Sigmund started in central defence alongside stand-in skipper Tommy Smith. He said he'd like to think he had done enough to warrant retention tomorrow.

"I always want to play. Whenever I go out there and try to do my best, that's what I've done and you just leave it in the arms of the coach now."

Much of the pre-match focus has been on Nelsen's first home game but Sigmund, who made his All Whites debut in 2000 but has only been a regular selection since 2006, has never played an international in Christchurch either.

"Bugger Ryan," he laughed, "it's all about me . . . Certainly for me, it's a big thing as well. It would be nice to get out in front of my family and friends and all the people who've been there [during my career]."

Sigmund said he would love to play alongside Nelsen in Christchurch again, 14 years after the pair last turned out there for Christchurch United in 1998.

Nelsen wasn't surprised to see Sigmund slot the clincher "and make the game secure" in Papeete.

"That's just Siggy. He always puts in a really good performance, he's been doing that for the Phoenix year-in, year-out."

"Ten to 15" members of the Sigmund clan will be in the AMI Stadium stands and he said "John Brown [his former Canterbury United coach] and [ex-All White goalkeeper] Alan Stroud are getting a busload from O'Shea's pub."

Herbert is likely to revert to his 2010 World Cup starting rearguard of Nelsen, Smith and Winston Reid but there will be a clamour for Sigmund to get game time.

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First-choice goalkeeper Mark Paston withdrew on Saturday with a foot infection and the Phoenix coaching staff will monitor his progress at training today before deciding who starts between the sticks.

Herbert was pleased the All Whites' were "professional" in Papeete and didn't react to some questionable calls by Vanuatu referee Bruce George.

NEW ZEALAND 2 TAHITI 0

- Fairfax Media

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