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A look ahead to the New Zealand v. Jamaica friendly on Feb. 29

With friendly matches, typically you have a major objective, and then other objectives that the coaches would like to achieve if possible. The main priority is to of course to challenge the team. What better way to do that than to face Jamaica, a team who just entered the top 50 of FIFA’s ranking. As well, this could be a team that the All Whites could face in the Intercontinental Playoffs to reach Brazil in two years. The other important part to keep in mind is that this match is the only friendly scheduled for the year, and therefore it is important to get some other guys some game experience. All the other windows are filled with the OFC Nations Cup and Oceanic Qualifying matches, and while those matches are extremely important, they are not exactly facing strong nations that will better prepare them for the World Cup. With that in mind Coach Ricki Herbert has called a strong lineup for this match.

Now in the World Cup in South Aftica, the All Whites used a 3-4-3 formation. However in their last 2 matches last year against Australia and Mexico they went a different route. According to the starting lineup against Mexico was a 4-4-2, while three days later against Australia they took the field in a 3-5-2. Because of this I will use the 3-5-2 formation that was used in the last match to list who I think will start the match.

Jake Gleeson (Portland Timbers, USA – 1/0)
Mark Paston (Wellington Phoenix – 28/0)

        Paston gets the match. I’d like to see Gleeson play a half, but with his Major League Soccer season starting 12 days later, I think Herbert just wants him in the camp for the experience.

Tony Lochhead (Wellington Phoenix – 34/0)
Ryan Nelsen (captain, Tottenham Hotspur , ENG – 45/6)
Winston Reid (West Ham, ENG – 9/1)
Ben Sigmund (Wellington Phoenix – 18/1)
Tommy Smith (Ipswich Town, ENG – 8/0)
Ivan Vicelich (Auckland City – 73/6)

         I think we will see Winston Reid, Ben Sigmund, and Ivan Vicelich start. At this point with Ryan Nelsen stating he is injured, Tottenham will not feel comfortable sending him to the other side of the world for the match. Because of this I think Tommy Smith will see some playing time. I go with Smith over Lochhead because he is in England and so Herbert doesn’t get the chance to see him live like he does with Tony who is at Wellington.

Leo Bertos (Wellington Phoenix – 39/0)
Jeremy Brockie (Newcastle Jets, AUS – 24/0)
Tim Brown (Wellington Phoenix – 29/0)
Dan Keat (Los Angeles Galaxy, USA – 0/0)
Michael McGlinchey (Central Coast Mariners, AUS – 10/1)
Marco Rojas (Melbourne Victory, AUS – 2/0)

            There is a lot of exciting options here, and I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of one of the forwards moving back into the midfield. I don’t figure that Keat will play a role in this game, for the same reasons as Jake Gleeson won’t. I can see either Barbarouses or Killen moving into the midfield, I’ll list Kosta here, as I think Chris will start up top. The other four will be Rojas, Bertos, Brown and McGlinchey who scored a goal this past weekend for the Mariners against Wellington Phoenix.

Kosta Barbarouses (Alania Vladikavkaz , RUS – 4/0)
Chris Killen (Shenzhen Ruby, CHN – 39/11)
Shane Smeltz (Perth Glory, AUS – 37/17)
Chris Wood (Bristol City, ENG – 17/1)

            With Barbarouses starting in the midfield, I think we’ll see Chris Killen and Shane Smeltz start together up top. Chris Wood will certainly get some time, considering how strong a season he has been having in the English Championship.

The Jamaicans squad has been certainly and have some talented attackers.  Two MLS stars will play major roles in the Jamaican attack. Dane Richards is a speedy midfielder for the New York Red Bulls who will look to give the defenders fits. Omar Cummings is a striker for the Colorado Rapids. He scored for the Reggae Boyz in their 5-2 defeat to Ecuador. The third crucial player to keep an eye on is winger Luton Shelton who plays in Turkey for Karabukspor. In 55 matches for his country, he has found the net 30 times.

I believe that this will be a close match, the travel time will certainly play a role on the team’s fitness. But they will also be playing their third match in a week after taking on Cuba twice at home. Their last five games have all been loses for the Reggae Boyz, conceding 12 goals, while scoring only three goals. So their defense is not strong. I envision that New Zealand will come away with a 2-1 victory, with Smeltz getting one and either Rojas, or Killen scoring the other.

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