A CAPACITY crowd at Westpac Stadium could make all the difference for the Wellington Phoenix in their do-or-die semifinal clash with the Newcastle Jets, says captain Andrew Durante.
The Phoenix-s fortress – the hosts are unbeaten there in 18 Hyundai A-League matches stretching back to October last year – is a sell-out for the match, with more than 34,000 fans expected for the showdown.
It has been a testing buildup to the match for the Phoenix. Durante and fellow defender Jon McKain spent the past week on international duty with the Australian national team, while coach Ricki Herbert and players Tim Brown, Ben Sigmund, Tony Lochhead and Leo Bertos turned out for New Zealand in their friendly match against Mexico in Los Angeles on Thursday.
While Durante and McKain – the latter to miss Sunday-s match on suspension – are back in Wellington and training with the remainder of the squad, the New Zealand contingent won-t return to the capital till Saturday morning.
But Durante reckons a big, loud crowd will be just what the well-travelled Kiwi players need to get them fired up for Sunday-s blockbuster.
“It-s obviously not ideal that they-re not back till the day before the game but they-re professionals and they know what they have to do to look after themselves.
“The key is that we-re at Westpac Stadium. We-ve shown how good we are at home and a sell-out crowd is going to be amazing. Whether the Kiwi boys come back a little bit sore or tired, when they step out there on Sunday afternoon the adrenalin will be pumping. With the crowd behind us that-ll lift them to another level and they-ll forget any pain and fatigue – they-ll ride the game out on pure emotion.”
The match in Los Angeles was an important one for Sigmund, in particular. The All Whites centre back has had little gametime since copping a suspension earlier in the season. But with McKain suspended for Sunday-s match, Sigmund will start alongside Durante against the Jets.
“It-s great for Siggy,” said Durante. “He needed to get a full game under his belt before such a big match, especially after missing quite a few games during the season. He-ll be better for the run (in Los Angeles) and he-ll be raring to go on Sunday.”
Durante is also raring to go, having just returned from training with the Socceroos. He made the bench in the Aussies- 1-0 win against Indonesia but didn-t get on the park to get his first cap for his country.
“It was an intense camp but I-m feeling pretty fresh and I can-t wait for Sunday. All my energy is being focused on this game and I-m quietly confident we-ll get the result, especially in front of a sell-out crowd.”