Day 6 at the qualifiers: Hay ponders selection options for final group game

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All Whites head coach Danny Hay is likely to rotate his line-up for the side’s final group game at the Oceania FIFA World Cup qualifying tournament in Qatar.

He has five new arrivals to integrate into the side and knowing New Zealand has already confirmed its semi-final spot, Hay will probably give most or even all these a taste of action.

They are left back Liberato Cacace, midfielders Joe Bell and Bill Tuiloma, forward Alex Greive and goalkeeper Jamie Searle.

They attend their first training sessions with the rest of the squad which has been trimmed after the departure of seven players who have returned to their clubs.

The departees are Kosta Barbarouses, Clayton Lewis, Dane Ingham, Dalton Wilkins, Oli Sail, Ben Old and Ben Waine.

All have had a chance to show Hay what they are capable of, staking claims for selection to any squad needed for a interconfederation play-off in mid-June.

Lewis and Waine both scored their first goals for the full national side while Phoenix teammate Sail would be pleased to have two clean sheets at the tournament.

With selection options open, Hay can look to rest key players such as Chris Wood and captain Winston Reid against New Caledonia on Friday, or at least limit their time on the pitch.

Introducing the new arrivals straight away seems more logical than having to introduce them at the sudden death stages of the eight-nation tournament.

New Zealand will play either Tahiti or Solomon Islands in the semi-finals.

The fourth semi-finalist will be either Fiji or Papua New Guinea, due to meet on Friday. A win or draw will take PNG through.

Meanwhile, here’s Friends of Football’s round-up from Day 6:

New Zealand: Country celebrates Wood’s goalscoring record

New Zealand media have been quick to recognise the achievement by Chris Wood whose 30 goals for his country sets a new all-time record.

Accolades have come from the likes of Wood’s Newcastle United manager Eddie Howe and former record-holder Vaughan Coveny.

Click here for Eddie Howe’s tribute to Wood >>>>

Stuff’s Tony Smith caught up with Coveny, now U-21 coach at A-League club Western United and he was thrilled for Wood.

Coveny (50) said records were there to be broken and “hopefully Chris will bag a few more.”

“I’m sure he’s got that in him. He’s still young enough to play for a few more years yet.

“Time moves on. It’s a new era and a new generation of players and I just hope they continue to get some fantastic results and improve their world ranking and make another World Cup.”

Fiji: ‘It’s a must-win situation for us’

The Fijian camp are regrouping after their 4-0 loss to New Zealand and anything but a win against PNG on Friday will lead to early flights home.

Team manager Anushil Kumar told The Fiji Times:

“The boys gave their best but I admit New Zealand was a better side.

“We reminded the boys that it’s not over yet.

“We have a very important match against PNG coming up and it’s a must-win situation for us.

“All focus is now on our last pool match. The coaching panel has a recovery plan and one more training session to rectify things.”

Papua New Guinea: Looking to send their elite players abroad

PNG administrators are using the World Cup qualifiers as a chance to market their best players to overseas clubs, to help their development.

President of the PNG Football Association John Kapi Natto says England and the United States are primary targets.

“We will be meeting with the English football clubs in Qatar during the OFC qualifiers to deliberate on a Memorandum of Understanding,” he told the Post-Courier.

Currently, PNG has only two internationals (David Browne and Tommy Semmy) playing overseas.

“We have the talent, we just need to find the right connection,” Natto says.

“We look forward to developing a strong working relationship with these two countries, which no doubt will benefit our players for many years ago come.”

Meanwhile, here’s a chance to again appreciate the matchwinning strike by former Hamilton Wanderers striker Tommy Semmy that beat New Caledonia and gave PNG pole position to progress to the semi-finals:

Vanuatu: ‘We know something happened in camp … we need answers’

The Vanuatu squad remain in quarantine, awaiting the chance to fly home after their withdrawal from the tournament.

Most of the team tested positive for COVID-19 as they prepared to take the team bus to the stadium for the tournament opener against Tahiti.

Unable to field 14 eligible players, and not having time to complete a week’s isolation or bring in fresh players, the side withdrew.

Vanuatu administrators want to find out what went wrong with their squad.

The Vanuatu Daily Post reports that Port Vila Football Association president Andrew Leong “demands” a national team report from the Vanuatu Football Federation as 21 of the players were from Port Vila.

PVFA vice president Harry Attison said:

“We know something had happened when they were in camp here and when they went to Qatar so we need answers.”

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