All Whites head coach Danny Hay faces a double dilemma tomorrow (Tuesday May 17) when he names his squad to play Costa Rica in next month’s FIFA World Cup play-off.
While he has the challenge of selecting the squad capable of becoming the third New Zealand side to reach a World Cup finals, Hay also knows he’ll have to leave out up 20 full-time professionals, all of whom are capable of challenging for a national team place.
On Tuesday, Hay is expected to name 26 players to travel to Europe and Qatar for warm-up games against Peru (June 6) and another yet-to-be named opponent (June 10) before facing Costa Rica on Wednesday June 15 (6am NZT).
The squad will slim down to 23 for the play-off but Hay will want cover for injuries ahead of the game.
Hay’s choices were boosted by solid performances by newcomers at the Oceania World Cup qualifiers in March.
However, he was unable to select players such as Michael Boxall, Ryan Thomas, Michael Woud, Marcos Rojas and Sarpreet Singh for the Oceania series because of injury or availability issues.
Rojas (30) has been in fine form for Melbourne Victory this year but was blocked by his club from playing for the national team.
Singh has not kicked a ball for six weeks as he works to regain his fitness in time for selection, while another injured midfielder, Clayton Lewis, has returned to matchplay just in time, making a return to the Wellington Phoenix line-up in the past week.
Hay’s selection choices are likely to come from the following pool of recent internationals (in alphabetical order):
Kosta Barbarouses, Sydney FC, Australia
Joe Bell, Bröndby IF, Denmark
Michael Boxall, Minnesota United, USA
Nikko Boxall, San Diego Loyal, USA
Liberato Cacace, FC Empoli, Italy (LOAN)
Joe Champness, Giresunspor, Turkey
Elliot Collier, San Antonio FC, USA
Andre de Jong, AmaZulu FC, South Africa
Francis de Vries, IFK Värnamo, Sweden
Matthew Garbett, Torino, Italy
Matthew Gould, Altrincham FC, England
Alex Greive, St Mirren, Scotland
Cam Howieson, Auckland City FC, New Zealand
Dane Ingham, Newcastle Jets, Australia
Elijah Just, FC Helsingør, Denmark
Niko Kirwan, Calcio Padova, Italy
Clayton Lewis, Wellington Phoenix, New Zealand
Stefan Marinovic, Hapoel Nof HaGalil, Israel
Callum McCowatt,FC Helsingør, Denmark
Ben Old, Wellington Phoenix, New Zealand
Tim Payne, Wellington Phoenix, New Zealand
Nando Pijnaker, Sligo Rovers, Ireland (LOAN)
Winston Reid, Unattached
Logan Rogerson, FC Haka, Finland
Marco Rojas, Melbourne Victory, Australia
Oli Sail, Wellington Phoenix, New Zealand
Jamie Searle, Swansea City, Wales
Sarpreet Singh, Jahn Regensburg, Germany (LOAN)
Tommy Smith, Colchester United, England
Marko Stamenic, HB Køge, Denmark (LOAN)
Ryan Thomas, PSV, Netherlands
Bill Tuiloma, Portland Timbers, USA
Ben Waine, Wellington Phoenix, New Zealand
Dalton Wilkins, Kolding IF, Denmark
Chris Wood, Newcastle United, England
Michael Woud, Kyoto Sanga, Japan