All Whites look to youth

RICKI Herbert's pledge to "give youth a chance" is again reflected in his 23-strong squad for international friendlies with Mexico and Australia.

Encouraged by what he saw from Canada-based Michael Boxall and Japan-based Michael Fitzgerald against China, Herbert has kept the young defenders, who will be able to play alongside other rising stars Tommy Smith and Winston Reid.

Toss in the more experienced Ivan Vicelich, Ben Sigmund, Andy Boyens and Tony Lochhead, and the All Whites' defence appears to lose little despite lacking injured captain Ryan Nelsen.

"Boxall and Fitzgerald did well in China and certainly did their chances no harm. That was another reason for us taking games like these," said Herbert. "It is now going to be tough to make a call on who will play."

After missing the China game, veteran midfielder Simon Elliott has been recalled and joins Vicelich as the two most experienced players in the squad.

Asked if they had given any indication of their futures - especially with an eye to the next World Cup - Herbert said they might like to think they would be around for another campaign.

After being on the fringe of international debuts in recent times, it seems goalkeeper Jake Gleeson, who plays for Portland Timbers in the MLS, and striker Craig Henderson, now with Mjallby in Sweden, will finally get to play.

Gleeson was named as back-up to Glen Moss for the China game but was released to debut for Portland. Henderson was initially named to play against Mexico before last year's World Cup but was ruled out with a serious knee injury.

While he has no firm idea on likely starting line-ups for the two friendlies, Herbert said he expected all players to get game time.

New Zealand schedule

Mexico v NZ - Denver, USA
June 2

Australia v NZ - Adelaide Oval
June 5


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