WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Zealand coach Ricki Herbert has recalled the attacking trio of Shane Smeltz, Chris Wood and Marco Rojas for the All Whites’ 2014 World Cup playoff against Mexico.
The trio missed New Zealand’s 0-0 draw in a warmup against Trinidad & Tobago last month due to injuries but were fit for selection in a 23-man squad named on Tuesday for the playoff first leg in Mexico City on November 13.
The home leg in Wellington will be played a week later.
“It’s great to be able to include those players who have long been an integral part of what we’ve done,” Herbert said on New Zealand Football’s website (www.nzfootball.co.nz).
“Their return points to the fact that we’re developing a very competitive squad.”
Herbert, who helped guide New Zealand to the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa, also named uncapped fullback Storm Roux, who plays for Central Coast Mariners, champions in Australia’s top-flight A-League.
“He’s athletically a player who can get forward and he will put pressure on the likes of Tony Lochhead and Leo Bertos because he’s able to play down both sides,” Herbert added.
“I’ve also been impressed with his one-on-one defending as well.”
Oceania champions New Zealand qualified for South Africa, only their second World Cup after their maiden finals appearance in 1982, with a 1-0 home win over Asian side Bahrain four years ago after holding the Gulf nation 0-0 away.
Mexico qualified for the inter-confederation playoff by finishing fourth in CONCACAF’s six-nation final group.
Herbert said he expected a big test from Mexico’s forwards after their 4-2 win in a friendly over Finland last week.
“The home fixture is ultra-important and after watching them against Finland move numbers forward quickly I‘m sure they’ll try to set the tie alight and score goals in that first leg,” Herbert said.
“That presents a strong challenge for us but also a good one. If we can be tight and very resolute we can put ourselves in a position to showcase our talents at home in the second leg.”
New Zealand squad:
Goalkeepers: Glen Moss, Jacob Spoonley, Tamati Williams
Defenders: Andrew Durante, Tony Lochhead, Winston Reid, Storm Roux, Ben Sigmund, Tommy Smith, Bill Tuiloma, Ivan Vicelich
Midfielders: Leo Bertos, Aaron Clapham, Jeremy Christie, Craig Henderson, Chris James, Michael McGlinchey
Forwards: Kosta Barbarouses, Jeremy Brockie, Rory Fallon, Marco Rojas, Shane Smeltz, Chris Wood.
Writing by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford