The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION
Nelsen willing to help New Zealand if needed, but says team has plenty of quality
TORONTO - Toronto FC manager Ryan Nelsen says he has not got a call from New Zealand football about helping his homeland's World Cup playoff push.
A story this week on Fairfax Media's website stuff.co.nz carried the headline: "Time for All Whites to send Ryan Nelsen SOS?"
"It is a longshot, given team politics and Toronto's own struggles, but (manager Ricki) Herbert and NZF should swallow their pride and send Nelsen an SOS," wrote Sam Worthington.
Nelsen, presumably, would help off the field.
The Toronto FC coach said he was unaware of the article.
"But I'm always there to help New Zealand if I can. Always help anybody," the former All Whites captain said Thursday. "But I know the coach really well. I know all the players really well. So they just need to pick up the phone if they ever need help.
"Not that they need it. They're a very good team. The players are good, the coach is good."
New Zealand, ranked 67th in the world, is slated to meet the fourth-best team from the final round of CONCACAF qualifying in a home-and-away playoff to see who advances to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
The New Zealanders seem destined to meet either No. 21 Mexico or No. 35 Panama in November.
Before that, New Zealand will hold a week-long training camp before facing No. 85 Trinidad and Tobago on Oct. 15 in a friendly.
The All Whites will play Mexico's Queretaro and Major League Soccer's Chivas during the camp in Los Angeles.
The home leg of the intercontinental playoff is set for Nov. 20 in Wellington. The series will open in the CONCACAF country on Nov. 13 or 14.
Nelsen knows all about the playoff, having helped the All Whites beat Bahrain to get to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
"It was a really hard game," he said, recalling the 35-degree heat and 100-per-cent humidity in Manama's National Stadium.
In 2009, New Zealand tied Bahrain 0-0 on the road and then won 1-0 at Wellington's Westpac Stadium.
Nelsen believes playing the return leg at home again is an advantage for New Zealand.
"Come November, it will be raining, windy and horrible," said Nelsen.
New Zealand wrapped up its Oceania campaign last month, finishing atop the standings with a 6-0-0 record against No. 95 New Caledonia, No. 146 Tahiti and No. 169 Solomon Islands.
In contrast, its CONCACAF opposition will be coming of a 10-game series against the likes of the U.S., Costa Rica, Honduras and Jamaica.
Just assembling the New Zealand team is difficult, Nelsen said, given they are spread around the globe.
"The one advantage we have is New Zealanders travel well," he said. "It doesn't affect us — time zones and big long flights."
That's because New Zealand athletes are used to long journeys.
"But when they (opposing teams) have to come to the bottom of the earth, it affects those people," he added.
(1 of 50 articles for this week)12/4/2013 5:38 PM 0