Fred de Jong says Ryan Nelsen's latest All Whites absence is a victory for common sense, rather than a pushy Premier League club.
Nelsen, who captains both the All Whites and Queen's Park Rangers, was named in the initial squad but asked New Zealand Football if he could be "excused" from tomorrow's friendly against China in Shanghai (kickoff 12.30am NZT).
Speaking from Shanghai, de Jong, NZF's high performance director, said Nelsen's injuries were genuine, despite the 35-year-old playing 90 minutes in struggling QPR's 1-0 defeat to Stoke City on Sunday.
"We've known about his knee injury since the Tahiti game [last month] so that's sort of an ongoing issue," de Jong said.
"And then he's picked up a niggling ankle thing as well. So he doesn't train, and obviously the club is in a real predicament right now. It's all hands on the pump at QPR. So he asked us if he could be excused and we took a commonsense approach and said yes."
The China game is the All Whites' only tune-up before March's important World Cup qualifier against New Caledonia and de Jong admitted it was "unfortunate" they would be without their skipper.
"But Ryan's 35 now and we need him in March, through next year, and especially in November [for World Cup qualifiers]."
He added West Ham United had no qualms around Winston Reid travelling for the friendly, while Perth Glory's concerns over Shane Smeltz's hamstring had been noted.
"He's not going to play 90 minutes, because that would be stupid. So we've been talking with Perth Glory about that and his loads."
China, ranked 88th in the world compared with New Zealand's 93rd, have been installed by the bookmakers as warm favourites.
All Whites veteran Ivan Vicelich, who spent five months in the Chinese Super League with Shenzhen Ruby in 2010, said the world's most populous nation had huge potential as a footballing power.
Vicelich captained the All Whites that drew 1-1 with China in Wuhan last year.
"They're a good team," Vicelich said. "Very technical with sharp players who are good on the ball, a lot of speed and they try and play a passing game to create chances and if they get one-on-one they try and take players on."
De Jong said conditions would be chilly come the 7.30pm local kickoff time and hoped players used the friendly to promote their selection chances for next year.
What: International football friendly
Where: Shanghai Hongkou Football Stadium When: 12.30am Thursday
TV: Live on Sky Sport 2
All Whites (from): Mark Paston, Glen Moss, Winston Reid, Tony Lochhead, Ben Sigmund, Tommy Smith, Leo Bertos, Michael McGlinchey, Dan Keat, Ivan Vicelich, Tim Payne, Cameron Howieson, Shane Smeltz, Marco Rojas, Jeremy Brockie, Kosta Barbarouses, Chris Wood.
- © Fairfax NZ News