Six Nix called up to All Whites

Half a dozen Wellington Phoenix players have caught the eye of All Whites head coach Darren Bazeley.

Bazeley has named six Phoenix players in the national squad for this month’s W Cup in Abu Dhabi.

Lukas Kelly-Heald has been called up to the All Whites for the first time, Kosta Barbarouses and Ben Old have earned recalls, and Alex Paulsen, Tim Payne and Finn Surman have kept their places in the 24-strong squad after travelling to Europe with the national team in November.

Kelly-Heald, 18, has been a mainstay on the left side of the Nix’s defence in his maiden season as a professional, featuring in all but one of the team’s 21 matches to date this A-League season.

Barbarouses and Old have been Wellington’s two most potent attackers in the 2023-24 A-League. Barbarouses, who recently celebrated his 34th birthday, has scored 10 goals and created four others this season, while Old, 21, has set-up three as well as finding the back of the net four times.

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – JANUARY 12: Ben Old poses during a Wellington Phoenix A-League training session at NZCIS on January 12, 2024 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Barbarouses has played 54 internationals the All Whites, but last featured for New Zealand in March last year, while Old was capped twice at senior level in 2022.

Payne, Surman and Paulsen have also played key roles in the Phoenix’s push for their maiden title.

Payne has scored two goals and has four assists in 18 matches at right back and is hoping to add to his 34 international caps.

Surman and Paulsen have played every minute of Wellington’s season to date as the team have built the equal-best defensive record in the league and registered eight clean sheets.

Surman made his debut off the bench against Greece in November, while Paulsen is endeavouring to make his first appearance for the senior team.

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – JANUARY 19: Alex Paulsen of the Phoenix reacts after a save during the A-League Men round 13 match between Wellington Phoenix and Melbourne Victory at Sky Stadium, on January 19, 2024, in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Andy Jackson/Getty Images)

The All Whites will play Egypt on Friday, March 22 at 10pm (7am Saturday, March 23 NZT), with the winner to play the winner of the other W Cup match between Croatia and Tunisia on Tuesday, March 26 at 10pm (7am Wednesday, March 27 NZT).

If New Zealand are beaten by Egypt they will play the loser of the Croatia-Tunisia match in the third place playoff on Monday, March 25 at 10pm (7am Tuesday, March 26 NZT).

All W Cup matches can be watched live and free on FIFA+. 

Lukas Kelly-Heald, Kosta Barbarouses, Ben Old, Tim Payne, Finn Surman and Alex Paulsen will join the All Whites in Abu Dhabi after Saturday’s eagerly-awaited A-League match against Sydney FC at Eden Park. You can get your tickets to cheer on the Phoenix here.