Four Wellington Phoenix players will help the All Whites try and qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
Oli Sail, Tim Payne, Clayton Lewis and Ben Waine have been named in New Zealand’s initial 26-man national squad, which will be trimmed to 23 for the intercontinental playoff against Costa Rica in Doha on June 14 (June 15 NZT).
“I’m very happy with the squad we have assembled,” All Whites head coach Danny Hay said. “The vast majority were part of the qualifying campaign, and a significant number were in the Olympic side, so this is a group that understands how we want to play and what is expected of them.
“While it is unfortunate that Sarpreet Singh and Ryan Thomas are missing with injury, it is great we are able to bring Marco Rojas and Michael Boxall back after they weren’t available in March.
“We know this is a massive moment for football in New Zealand and I believe these are the players that give us the best possible chance of qualifying for the FIFA World Cup later this year.”
Sail made his long-awaited debut for the All Whites in March, starting the first two matches of New Zealand’s Oceania World Cup qualifying campaign and keeping clean sheets against Papua New Guinea and Fiji.
He is fresh off an outstanding season with the Phoenix and is regarded as one of the best goalkeepers in the Isuzu UTE A-League.
Sail will vie with former club team-mate Stefan Marinovic to start in goal against Costa Rica.
Payne has played 25 times for the national team since making his debut as an 18-year-old a decade ago.
The versatile defender featured in the business end of Oceania qualifying in March, including starting the final against the Solomon Islands.
Payne was again 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.
Lewis has fought back from a sickening ankle injury suffered on his return from international duty to be named as one of just a few specialist central midfielders in the All Whites squad.
The Tokyo Olympian was the linchpin of the Phoenix midfield before suffering the injury and showed his class in the club’s final two matches once he recovered.
Lewis has played 18 times for the national team since making his debut as an 18-year-old in 2015. He played the full 90 minutes in New Zealand’s first two Oceania World Cup qualifying matches in March.
Waine, also a Tokyo Olympian, scored on debut for the All Whites in March to secure New Zealand a crucial 1-0 win over Papua New Guinea in their opening World Cup qualifier.
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.
Oli Sail, Tim Payne, Clayton Lewis and Ben Waine will assemble with the All Whites in Spain next week ahead of an international friendly against Peru in Barcelona on June 5. New Zealand will also play a yet to be announced second national team in Doha on June 9 prior to the intercontinental playoff against Costa Rica.