Like all New Zealand football fans, the Wellington Phoenix will be cheering on the All Whites in their intercontinental World Cup playoff against Costa Rica on Wednesday morning.
But the Phoenix are especially invested in the match, with nearly half of Danny Hay’s squad having links to the club.
The Nix are particularly proud that four current players; Oli Sail, Clayton Lewis, Tim Payne and Ben Waine, are amongst the group endeavouring to follow in the footsteps of the famous 1981 and 2009 All Whites sides and qualify for a World Cup.
The quartet all featured in New Zealand’s warm-up matches against Peru and Oman and are in contention to play against Los Ticos in Qatar.
Sail is the most likely Phoenix player to start. The Nix vice-captain started in goal for the main dress rehearsal against Peru, with former club-mate Stefan Marinovic getting the nod against Oman.
Sail established himself as one of the premier goalkeepers in the A-League during the 2021/22 season and led the Phoenix to the finals against all odds.
Lewis is also a strong contender for a place in the All Whites’ starting XI, having impressed after coming on as a halftime substitute against Peru. The fit-again midfielder also played the last half an hour of the nil-all draw against Oman.
The Tokyo Olympian was the linchpin of the Phoenix midfield before suffering a sickening ankle injury in March but showed his class in the club’s final two matches once he recovered.
Payne featured off the bench in both of New Zealand’s warm-up matches, showcasing his ability to play as either a fullback or central defender.
He was a regular member of the Phoenix’s starting XI in his third season with the club, missing only three matches as a result of national team commitments.
Waine replaced All Whites marksman Chris Wood in the friendly against Peru before starting up front in the scoreless draw with Oman.
The 20-year-old was the Phoenix’s joint top goal scorer in the A-League this season, finding the back of the net six times.
It also gives the club great pleasure that eight other members of the men’s national squad in Qatar have either come through the academy or played for the first team.
Wingers Kosta Barbarouses and Marco Rojas both started their professional contracts at the Phoenix, while centre back Michael Boxall, forward Callum McCowatt and goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic all had stints at the club.
First-choice left back Liberato Cacace, midfield linchpin Joe Bell and forward Logan Rogerson came through the Phoenix academy, with Cacace and Rogerson playing for the first team before furthering their burgeoning careers in Europe.
The man who scored the goal that sent New Zealand to the 2010 World Cup, Rory Fallon, who is the head of youth development at the Phoenix academy, is also now part of the All Whites coaching staff.
The Wellington Phoenix wishes the entire squad all the best against Costa Rica on Wednesday morning.
Come on you All Whites!