March 2, 2010
PASADENA, USA – One hundred days out from the FIFA World Cup the All Whites entered the last throws of preparation for their first World Cup warm-up, against Mexico in Pasadena, California.
With the World Cup opening match on June 10 drawing ever nearer , especially for Mexico who take on hosts South Africa at Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg in that match, the milestone has not slipped by New Zealand coach Ricki Herbert unnoticed.
“It’s countdown time now,” Herbert said, “the reality of the World Cup is not far away. “
Tickets for the Pasadena-hosted match have been snapped up fast – a crowd of 80,000 is now expected – and the shadow of a past World Cup climax the same venue is only heightening the sense of occasion.
“The Rose Bowl is steeped in history – it’s hosted a World Cup final,” Herbert said.
“There’s talk of over 70,000 people being there tomorrow night so it should be a good place to be.”
Herbert is predicting a stern examination of his team by a Mexican outfit welcoming back its full squad for the first time in 2010, but with new faces in the All Whites squad and World Cup places up for grabs he expects to see some players make strong cases for a seat on the plane to South Africa.
Without the service of either Ryan Nelsen or Ivan Vicelich, Herbert has already signalled former England age-group defender Tommy Smith should start the match in the heart of defence, uncapped midfielders Chad Coombes and Jason Hayne should see some time on the pitch against the World number 17.
“It’s a massive game. It’s a tough one for the players but a good one.
“We’ve brought some players in we need to look at, and we can use six substitutes including a goalkeeper for this match so we may have to use all of those.
“It would have been nice to have the full squad here, and given what we’re facing it’ll be a baptism of fire for some of the players but in the long run it won’t do them any harm.
“I’ve said to the players ‘Here’s a chance. The World Cup’s in 100 days so let’s make the most of it.’”
New Zealand v Mexico
8pm March 3 (Local time)
5pm March 4 (NZT)
Live on Sky Sport 1
Tickets from www.ticketmaster.com
New Zealand(from): Glen MOSS (GK), James BANNATYNE (GK), Tony LOCHHEAD, Andrew BOYENS, Steven OLD, Ben SIGMUND, Tommy SMITH, Andy BARRON, Leo BERTOS, Tim BROWN, Chad COOMBES, Simon ELLIOTT, Jason HAYNE, Michael McGLINCHEY, Shane SMELTZ, Rory FALLON, Chris KILLEN, Chris WOOD
Coach: Ricki HERBERT
Mexico: (from) Luis Ernesto Michel (GK), Jonathan Orozco (GK), Efrain Juarez, Carlos Salcido, Ricardo Osorio, Francisco Javier Rodriguez , Hector Moreno, Rafael Marquez, Gerardo Torrado, Israel Castro, Andres Guardado, Jonathan Dos Santos, Braulio Luna, Aldo De Nigris, Carlos Vela, Javier Hernandez, Giovani Dos Santos, Cuauhtemoc Blanco.
Coach: Javier Aguirre