The New Zealand federation has announced that 34 year old Tottenham Hotspur Defender Ryan Nelsen will captain the Oly-White’s this summer in London. It is also thought that Coach Neil Emblen wants to make striker Shane Smeltz and West Ham defender Winston Reid as the two other over-age players that are permitted to be apart of the 18-man team. If that is the case, then the team that takes the field this summer could be predominately players who play for the full national team. With the 2nd round of World Cup qualifying to take place in June the concern is that some of these players could become very tired and have a very short rest period this summer.
The draw for both the men’s and women’s teams were announced this week, and they both face a strong challenge. The Oly-Whites were placed in Group C with Brazil, Egypt, and Belarus. Obviously Brazil are immediate favorites to win the group, but I would say that New Zealand has a good possibility of finishing 2nd. Egypt will be the challengers to this role. Opening the group stage against Belarus is good, as the team can hit their stride against the Eastern Europeans, who qualified due to their 3rd place finish in last years Euro U-21 Championships. The second match is against Egypt before the 3rd match against Brazil. A draw in the second match could mean that the Brazil match could come down to not conceding a large amount of goals.
The Football Ferns have a tougher draw, but that is partially because the nations are placed in 3 groups. They are in Group A with hosts Great Britain, Brazil, and Cameroon. The Ferns start the group stage, and all of Olympic Football for that matter, by facing Great Britain two days before the Opening Ceremonies. They then face the Brazilians before finishing against Cameroon. In the women’s draw the 2 3rd place finishers with the best records also qualify for the knockout stage, so while their group is tougher, the Ferns could reach the last 8.
In other News…
As the NPower Championship draws close Winston Reid did everything he could to secure Automatic promotion for West Ham United, scoring a goal in Matchday 45, a come-from behind 2-1 victory over Leicester City. Reid scored in the 38th minute to tie it up. Unfortunately the win and this weeks triumph over Hull City proved for naught as Southhampton were victorious in their last match. This means that the Irons will have to go through the playoffs if they want to return to the Premier League.
The other two Kiwis in the Championship also finished their season this weekend going head-to-head. Chris Wood and Bristol City earned a 1-1 draw on the road against Cameron Howieson and Burnley. Wood started and played 77 minutes while Howieson came on in the 88th minute.
Congratulations go out to Auckland-based Waitakere United who won the New Zealand Premiership final 4-1 over Team Wellington. This is the club that is managed by the Oly-Whites coach Neil Emblen. Emblen has been with the club since 2009 and has led the team to a runner-up in the Oceanic Champions League. Hopefully he gets to play a large role for the team this summer, but I suspect that for the most part, the decisions will be made by Ricki Herbert.
The Oceanic Champions League Final began on Saturday. New Zealand club Auckland City hosted the first leg and were 2-1 victors over AS Tefana of Tahiti. The second leg will be played on May 12 and a City win would punch their ticket to the 2012 Club World Cup in Japan, which would be its 2nd consecutive trip.