English Premier League defenders Ryan Nelsen and Winston Reid have been included in a full strength All Whites squad for next month's World Cup qualifiers as coach Ricki Herbert plots a "ruthless" and "clinical" campaign.
All Whites captain Nelsen (Queens Park Rangers) and World Cup goalscorer Reid (West Ham United) both missed June's disastrous Oceania Nations Cup through injury and Herbert will be delighted at getting the big guns back to bolster his defence.
Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder Dan Keat is also fit again and included in the 20-man squad after missing the Nations Cup, while Tim Payne (Blackburn Rovers) is selected after impressing at the Olympics as a holding midfielder.
Herbert said missing out on next year's Confederations Cup had only steeled the team's resolve to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
"There are no easy games in international football - we've proved that in recent years and also had a timely reminder of it in Honiara,” said Herbert, who is in New Delhi on the Wellington Phoenix's pre-season tour of India.
“We need to be ruthless at home and clinical away during this campaign if we are serious about reaching a consecutive World Cup. A winning start to the campaign is vital as we don't want to open the door for anyone else to build momentum."
The squad named is for the first two stage-three Oceania qualifying games only.
The campaign opener in Noumea on September 7 is an opportunity for the All Whites to gain revenge on New Caledonia, who scored a stunning 2-0 win in the semifinals of the Nations Cup.
New Zealand then host the Solomon Islands at North Harbour Stadium on September 11 before playing Tahiti twice in October.
The qualifiers wrap up in March next year against New Caledonia and the Solomons with the winner progressing to a two-legged intercontinental playoff against a North and Central American nation for a place in Brazil.
Nelsen is on course to play his 50th ‘A' international in front of a home crowd in the fourth qualifier in Christchurch on October 16.
- © Fairfax NZ News