All Whites head coach Darren Bazeley has explained his decision to leave goalkeeper Oli Sail out of his squad to face Greece and the Republic of Ireland in November’s international window.
Bazeley said Sail (27) was struggling for form, having moved from Wellington Phoenix to A-League rivals Perth Glory.
Sail has been dropped by Glory after errors in their opening games.
“Sometimes, where players move clubs, it just disrupts them a little bit. It’s probably taken him a little bit longer than he wanted to settle and find his form again,” Bazeley told NewstalkZB‘s Jason Pine.
“I want him back smiling. Right now, he looks like he’s not enjoying it as much as he should. The best times from Oli are when he’s smiling and positive. He’ll fight through this and we’ll see him back soon.”
Sail, who has nine caps for New Zealand, and AFC Wimbledon’s Nik Tzanev have been left out of the 23-player squad, opening the way for Phoenix ‘keeper Alex Paulsen (21) to join Max Crocombe and Michael Woud as the three All Whites goalkeepers.
Bazeley said choosing the three ‘keepers was difficult, an example of the growing number of options for players in all positions.
“We’re starting to get a good deep base of potential players now, so we spend a lot of time tracking them, talking to them, seeing how they’re going.
“What we’re able to do now is start to make decisions based on form and fitness and look at who fits in the squad the best.
“We’re really happy with the squad we’ve got. It’s a really young, energetic, positive squad.
He said selections had been made with next year’s Paris Olympics in mind.
Bazeley said he saw the U-23 Olympic squad — which can have three overage players included — as “a shadow All Whites squad”.
Midfielder Sarpreet Singh wants to be involved in both November games, Bazeley said, after being treated for a calf injury picked up during the October window.
Bazeley said Singh looked good in the last All Whites training camp and played well against DR Congo.
He was being treated at his German club, Hansa Rostock.
Striker Chris Wood picked up a hamstring injury at club training and has missed a couple of games for English Premier League side Nottingham Forest.
“He’s in a good place and back running,” Bazeley said. “At this stage, it looks pretty positive that he’s going to be back available and being involved with us.”
Wood is “dead keen” to play but his fitness will be carefully assessed in collaboration with Forest’s medical staff.
Fulham midfielder Matt Dibley-Dias was not available for selection after picking up an injury in the lead-up to October’s internationals, depriving him of his All Whites debut.
Dibley-Dias (20) has been receiving treatment at Fulham for his hamstring injury.
Bazeley said midfielder Ryan Thomas was not ready yet to regain his place in the national squad, despite starting to return to competitive play with Dutch club PEC Zwolle.
“The timing still isn’t quite right. He needs a good 6-12 months playing for his club before he takes on the extra loading of playing for us. I keep saying, ‘We’ll see you back in the shirt one day’ and he’s never said ‘no’.”
Listen to Darren Bazeley’s interview with Jason Pine
You can listen to the full 12-minute interview here:
New Zealand squad
Max Crocombe (2 caps) Burton Albion FC, England
Alex Paulsen (0 caps) Wellington Phoenix, New Zealand
Michael Woud (5 caps) Ventforet Kofu, Japan
Tyler Bindon (2 caps) Reading FC, England
Michael Boxall (45 caps) Minnesota United, USA
Liberato Cacace (17 caps) Empoli FC, Italy
Tim Payne (33 caps) Wellington Phoenix, New Zealand
Nando Pijnaker (14 caps) Sligo Rovers, Ireland
Tommy Smith (50 caps) MK Dons, England
Finn Surman (0 caps) Wellington Phoenix, New Zealand
Dalton Wilkins (2 caps) Kolding IF, Denmark
Joe Bell (15 caps) Viking FK, Norway
Matthew Garbett (16 caps) NAC Breda, Netherlands
Clayton Lewis (24 caps) Macarthur FC, Australia
Callum McCowatt (14 caps) Silkeborg IF, Denmark
Sarpreet Singh (10 caps) FC Hansa Rostock, Germany
Marko Stamenic (16 caps) FK Crvena zvezda / Red Star Belgrade, Serbia
Joe Champness (8 caps) Adanaspor, Turkey
Alex Greive (11 caps) St Mirren FC, Scotland
Eli Just (18 caps) AC Horsens, Denmark
Max Mata (6 caps) Shrewsbury Town, England
Ben Waine (10 caps) Plymouth Argyle, England
Chris Wood (72 caps) Nottingham Forest, England
Game to be played on Saturday November 18, 2023 (NZT)
Greece v New Zealand
Georgios Kamaras Stadium, Athens, Greece, 6am TBC (NZT)
Game to be played on Wednesday November 22, 2023 (NZT)
Ireland v New Zealand
Aviva Stadium, Dublin, 8.45am (NZT)