Ten Nix called up to All Whites

The Wellington Phoenix dominate the All Whites squad named for this month’s OFC Nations Cup in Vanuatu.

There are 10 Phoenix players in the 21-strong squad for the tournament, including first time call-ups for left back Sam Sutton, forward Oskar van Hattum and midfielder Fin Conchie.

Veteran forward Kosta Barbarouses, midfielders Alex Rufer and Ben Old, goalkeeper Alex Paulsen, now with A.F.C. Bournemouth, and defenders Finn Surman and Lukas Kelly-Heald have kept their places in the All Whites after heading to Egypt with the national team in March, while experienced fullback Tim Payne is back in the squad after missing the last international window because of injury.

Former Nix players Libby Cacace, Ben Waine and Oli Sail have also been called up.

All Whites head coach Darren Bazeley says the timing of this OFC Nations Cup has made it quite difficult to select the final squad.

“Over the last month, I have spoken to all of the players around their personal situations, with some of our potential players still mid-season, some coming off the back of long European seasons, and some in various personal or contract situations,” Bazeley said.

“With the Olympics also being so close to the Nations Cup, with them being pretty much back-to-back tournaments, we have had to take that into consideration as well, managing player club and country commitments.

“This is a strong All Whites squad, with a large number of young U-23 players who will be part of the Olympic campaign, so having this time together is a real benefit leading into Paris 2024. 

“It is really exciting to see some of our younger players receive their first call up, it is a great opportunity for them to taste senior international football.”

The All Whites will play New Caledonia in their opening group match on Saturday, June 15 before playing the Solomon Islands the following Tuesday and then rounding out pool play three days later (Friday, June 21) against Vanuatu.

The top two sides from each group will progress to the semi-finals on Thursday, June 27, with the final on Sunday, June 30.