2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™

11 June - 11 July

2010 FIFA World Cup™

Heat rises in Oceania

It is not just the loss of Britain-based duo Chris Killen and Ryan Nelsen which has given New Zealand coach Ricki Herbert restless nights ahead of his side's FIFA World Cup™ qualifier in Vanuatu on Saturday, but soaring temperatures on the island where the game is going to take place.

As the All Whites squad were put through their paces in Sydney by Herbert before flying out to Vanuatu, the temperature topped 27 degrees Celsius. On the day of the game, however, the mercury is expected to reach 37 degrees (98.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

"The heat and the condition of the ground are things that are not going to change, we just need to deal with them," said Herbert.

"But I think what it does do though is dictate the intensity and periods of intensity we can play at. We need to be sensible and protect the ball when we do have possession and ensure we maximise any opportunities that do fall our way."

Herbert believes that every player he uses on Saturday will have to play their part in difficult conditions and he will be without Killen and Nelsen, two of his key players for this testing encounter.

Killen is currently nursing an Achilles strain, while Nelsen has been granted compassionate leave, as his wife is due to give birth to their first child within the next few days.

"It's frustrating," admitted Herbert. "We seem to get one foot forward and then take two steps back when you consider the important of qualifiers and necessity of having your best team."

Vanuatu finished in third place at July's South Pacific Games in Samoa, the first phase of Oceania qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. They will be without Philip Tom Tomke and Francois Sakama who carry automatic suspensions into the second qualifying phase.

The last time the two sides met was in Adelaide in 2004, when Vanuatu pulled off a shock 4-2 victory. Nine members of Herbert's squad for Saturday's match were involved on that day and they are determined not to let it happen again.

"History tells us to be wary of them," continued Herbert. "There seems to be a theory in New Zealand that these games are easy but they thought that about Fiji as well and that wasn't easy. We'll always be subjected to uninformed expectations but as a group we understand it will be difficult.

"Having said that, we remain confident and positive. This is group very keen to do well despite the absence of some key personnel. It's fantastic honour in anybody's career to have the opportunity to play in a World Cup qualifying tournament."

Meanwhile, Fiji and New Caledonia will meet for the third time in ten weeks when they face each other in Ba on Saturday morning. The New Caledonians have the edge going into recent encounters, after their 1-0 success in the final of the South Pacific Games in Samoa.

Yet, Fiji have home advantage for this match and after an impressive performance in their last game against New Zealand, they will be eager to get points on the board against their Pacific rivals.

However, officials in Fiji have been frustrated by a number of disruptions to their preparations and a number of players have not confirmed their availability for the match.

First choice goalkeeper Simione Tamanisau has been ruled out because he has not been released by his employers, Malakai Tiwa and Josaia Bukalidi are injured, and defender Samu Vula has excused himself, citing personal reasons.

Assistant coach Sayed Ali admitted that the management are cautious of playing five of their players: skipper Peni Finau, Taniela Waqa, Osea Vakatalesau, Roy Krishna and Pita Bolaitoga, as they had all received yellow cards in the Pacific Games, meaning a booking in Saturday's game could rule them out of the return fixture on Wednesday.

However, Fiji will be boosted by the presence of Ronil and Salesh Kumar.

"We have called in replacement players that have willingly come in and even though there are some setbacks we are still confident that we will win," said Sayed. "Training is going on as normal and the morale is still high. We are confident that we will win because we have the advantage of the home crowd."

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