Andrew Durante has pledged his allegiance to New Zealand; now his hopes of pulling on an All Whites shirt rest with the Fifa suits in Switzerland.
The Wellington Phoenix captain yesterday became a Kiwi citizen after a short ceremony watched on by wife Sarah and daughter Adalyn.
The Sydney-born defender described it as a "pretty proud moment" and national coach Ricki Herbert wasted no time rushing him into a 19-man squad for the World Cup qualifiers on March 22 and 26.
"It's starting to feel a lot more real for me now," Durante said.
"Now I'm just waiting for my passport to arrive then New Zealand Football will send all the information to Fifa. Hopefully it all gets approved and I'm available for the March 22nd game."
The only potential snag is the fact Durante has sat on the bench for the Socceroos, but the 30-year-old has not actually played for Australia at any level.
Of criticism he was treating the All Whites as second best, Durante replied: "Everyone has an opinion. I tried to play for the Socceroos and it never eventuated for me. As a young footballer I always dreamed of being an international footballer and the pinnacle is going to a World Cup. It's not something you take lightly, to change allegiances, but I've always wanted to play on the biggest stage and to have that opportunity through New Zealand Football is a great honour."
Durante's chances of game time probably hinge on whether Herbert persists with three central defenders following the retirement of Ryan Nelsen.
Winston Reid, Tommy Smith and Ben Sigmund are the other specialist centre backs in the squad, although Sigmund is suspended for the first qualifier against New Caledonia in Dunedin.
Herbert won't name a captain until the squad assembles on March 19.
Smith wore the armband in last year's failed Oceania Nations Cup campaign, and Reid, who has already captained Premier League club West Ham, appears the frontrunner.
Phoenix left back Ian Hogg is recalled, while teenager Cameron Howieson will play for the Junior All Whites in Fiji instead.
Dan Keat is named despite having been released by the Los Angeles Galaxy.
The Wellington midfielder is now exploring opportunities in Europe but could be a target for the Phoenix, depending on who they hire as their coach.
HOW THEY LINE UP
All Whites: Mark Paston, Glen Moss, Winston Reid, Tony Lochhead, Ben Sigmund, Tommy Smith, Ian Hogg, Andrew Durante (subject to Fifa approval), Leo Bertos, Michael McGlinchey, Dan Keat, Ivan Vicelich, Tim Payne, Shane Smeltz, Chris Killen, Marco Rojas, Jeremy Brockie, Kosta Barbarouses, Chris Wood.
- The Dominion Post
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