The chances of Ryan Nelsen featuring appear slim but the All
Whites are set to play their crucial World Cup qualifier
against New Caledonia in March in Auckland or Dunedin.
Nelsen has not yet announced his international retirement
after being unveiled as Toronto's new coach and New Zealand
Football remain "hopeful" he might play once more for the All
Whites being calling time on a remarkable career.
They hope that might be in their match-up with New Caledonia
on March 22, when a point from the game will see the All
Whites progress to November's intercontinental playoff
against the fourth-best side in Central and North America for
a place at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
The All Whites are also due to play the Solomon Islands in
Honiara on March 26 but the Solomon Islands Football
Federation are effectively bankrupt and NZF have put a
proposal to them to play their match, as well as their one
against Tahiti on March 22, in New Zealand.
Their decision on that - playing both games in New Zealand
would be less of a strain financially for them - has an
impact on where NZF decide to stage their match against New
Caledonia. If Tahiti, who are already out of contention,
agree to play the Solomon Islands in New Zealand, NZF could
stage the games as part of a double header.
The most likely venue would then be North Harbour Stadium or
Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland. Dunedin's indoor stadium comes
into the equation if the New Caledonia game is a one-off.
NZF are eager to make a decision so they can not only book
flights for the players - it costs around $120,000 to
assemble the team - but also begin marketing the game.
"A whole lot of things are bubbling around it," NZF high
performance manager Fred de Jong said. "We are working on the
best and fairest way around it. If it's a double header, then
it will be in Auckland but if it's just against New
Caledonia, then Dunedin is a possibility.
"It's all contingent on the Solomons because they are
bankrupt. Oceania are looking at ways to help out and we are
waiting to see what eventuates."
It's another illustration of the complexities of playing
within the Oceania Football Confederation. In the past,
Oceania tournaments have been postponed because it was deemed
unfair to ask players from island teams to get time off work
and a World Cup qualifier against Fiji was also postponed
because their goalkeeper was denied entry to New Zealand for
De Jong said the location of March's match would have no
bearing on where the home leg of November's intercontinental
playoff would be held. Wellington hosted the playoff in 2009,
when the All Whites beat Bahrain to qualify, and NZF know it
is the one game every four years that has the potential to
sell out and make them money.
"The November game stands on its own," he said. "There will
be a completely different set of requirement around that
game. It's such a big one. Whoever wants it will have to bid
for it. It will come down to how many seats, ticket pricing
and what the stadium and the city can do for us."