Fitness boost for All Whites boss

File photo.

All Whites coach Antony Hudson remains confident that star striker Chris Wood will be fit enough to start their crucial World Cup play-off against Peru on Thursday.

Wood was reduced to a bit-part role in the first-leg in Wellington last weekend, but made a noticeable difference when he entered the fray from the substitute’s bench with 19 minutes remaining.

But Hudson has revealed the 25-year-old Aucklander is likely to shake off the hamstring injury that saw him benched against the South Americans, and has underlined the Burnley forward’s importance ahead of the Lima showdown.

Speaking to NZFootball, Hudson said: “Chris Wood has a mild tightness in his hamstring, that’s all.

“Chris is a very important player to us, but as I said before we don’t have a big team like Peru.

“We have a very small team and we have many, many good players in that team.

“Chris Wood is important, but we have many others who are important and dangerous in tomorrow’s game.

“We’re not putting all of our faith in Chris Wood as we have lots of other players who can score goals and have scored goals away from home against big teams and caused problems against big teams. We go into the game confident.”

The two-legged tie is finely poised following an end-to-end 0-0 draw at the Westpac Stadium on Saturday

And despite rising expectations as New Zealand look to qualify for the World Cup finals for only the third time, Hudson insists his squad remain relaxed and undaunted by the challenge that lies ahead.

“I have to say the mood in the team is unbelievable,” he said. “Everyone is relaxed.

“We’re in a really good place, everyone is focused and we’re looking forward to the game. Nothing can get in our way on this tour.

“The team spirit is the strongest it’s been in the three-and-a-half years I’ve been in the job.

“There is pressure on Peru to win the game tomorrow. We’re used to pressure and travel so we are confident.

“If Peru lose it will be a national disaster, so there's a lot of pressure on them.”

Hudson will monitor the fitness of centre-half Tommy Smith before naming his starting XI, with the defender looking to overcome a calf injury he picked up in Wellington.


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