May 30, 2012
HONIARA, SOLOMON ISLANDS
The All Whites youngest ever skipper, Smith, has made an unbeaten start to his captaincy career leading New Zealand to a 2-2 draw against El Salvador and a 1-0 win over Honduras on their recent fleeting visit to Texas.
From Saturday, New Zealand face a gruelling but vitally important OFC Nations Cup campaign in which the winner after five games in 10 days advances to the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup and the four semi finalists progress to the stage three of World Cup qualifying.
Herbert initially appointed Smith for just the two USA-based matches but said the decision to retain him in the role for the Nations Cup was an easy one.
“I’ve been impressed with the way Tommy has embraced the honour and responsibility of leading the national team and the composure with which he’s handled it.”
“I’ve got no hesitation in handing the armband again for these crucial matches.”
Smith was given the word by Herbert as the team sat down for a meal and said “pride” was his overriding emotion at receiving the news.
“I remember from the last two games feeling great pride. You’re at the front of the queue leading the team out and then when you’re standing there for the national anthem having that armband around you makes it that much better.”
The former Westlake Boy High School student also said he would be picking the brains of others who have captained the All Whites in the past.
“We all talk and hopefully I can pick up a few things from Ivan Vicelich, Ben Sigmund and players like that who have been around a lot longer than I have.”
The squad train for the first time since in Honiara on Thursday, with Fiji the first team in their sights on Saturday afternoon. Group B rivals Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands also clash on Saturday.
Group A gets the tournament underway on Friday with Samoa meeting Tahiti and Vanuatu playing New Caledonia.
OFC Nations Cup / FIFA World Cup qualifying
1-10 June 2012
Lawson Tama Stadium
Honiara, Solomon Islands
Matches streamed online at www.oceaniafootball.com
New Zealand v Fiji
June 2, 12pm (1pm NZT)
New Zealand v PNG
June 4, 12pm (1pm NZT)
New Zealand v Solomon Islands
June 6, 3pm (4pm NZT)
June 8, 11am & 3pm (12pm & 4pm)
FinalJune 10, 3pm (4pm)