Senior players must fill void - Shane Smeltz
Striker Shane Smeltz says the All Whites senior players have to step up and help the new captain lead the team in their first international without Ryan Nelsen.
Coach Ricki Herbert is expected to name his skipper in Dunedin today with English premier league star Winston Reid or Ipswich Town defender Tommy Smith the leading candidates.
The new captain will lead out the team in Friday night's World Cup qualifier against New Caledonia in Dunedin with the All Whites just one victory away from clinching a place in November's inter-continental playoffs.
Smeltz - the first All White to arrive in Dunedin yesterday - said there were "a few candidates" for the captaincy.
"It will come down to Ricki and the coaching staff and everyone will back that decision."
But the Perth Glory forward accepted the team would need more than the new skipper to show leadership and fill the void left by Nelsen, who retired last month after eight seasons in the English premier league to become manager of Major League Soccer club Toronto FC.
Smeltz agreed he and other seasoned pros like midfielder-defender Ivan Vicelich and striker Chris Killen would also have to take extra responsibilities in guiding the younger members of the squad.
"Obviously, Nellie is going to be a loss - that was unexpected when that happened.
But, as a group, as a country we need to move on. It's definitely the senior boys' job to step up and make sure we continue that leadership."
Vicelich is the most-capped All White with 85 internationals followed by midfielder Leo Bertos (50 caps), Smeltz (48), Killen (46), fullback Tony Lochhead (43) and goalkeeper Mark Paston (35).
The All Whites have two games to get the three points required to clinch the Oceania confederation berth for home and away playoffs against the fourth-ranked team from Concacaf (North America, Caribbean and Central America).
But Smeltz, the top scorer in the current squad with 23 goals, said the All Whites were looking to seal their qualification on Friday.
"It's a crucial game, we certainly don't want to be leaving it to the last game and going over to the Solomons hoping for a result. We're confident we can finish it in the first game here in New Zealand."
The All Whites lost 2-0 to New Caledonia in the semifinals of the Oceania Nations Cup tournament in Honiara last June - which cost the Kiwis a place in the 2013 Confederations Cup finals in Brazil and a fat Fifa pay cheque.
But they avenged that upset defeat with a 2-0 win in the first round World Cup qualifier in Noumea last September.
Smeltz and Leicester City striker Chris Wood were on target in the first leg and Smeltz is convinced the All Whites have the firepower to do the double in Dunedin.
Smeltz is competing for starting places up front with Wood, a revelation this year in England's second-tier Championship with Millwall and latterly Leicester, Killen, who plays in the Chinese Super League, Kosta Barbarouses from Greek first division club Panathinaikos, Wellington Phoenix top scorer Jeremy Brockie and Melbourne Victory's Marco Rojas, ranked by many Australian judges as the best player in this edition of the A-League.
■ About 4000 tickets have been sold for the match.
- © Fairfax NZ News