New Zealand's 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ qualification hopes suffered a major setback Thursday when skipper Winston Reid was ruled out of a two-game play-off against Mexico.
The defender suffered an ankle injury while training for his English Premier League club West Ham United and scans showed he would not recover for the play-offs, New Zealand Football said.
Reid has been the only New Zealander playing regular football in a top league in the lead-up to the crunch tie and coach Ricki Herbert acknowledged his loss was a blow the All Whites' preparations. Without Reid marshalling the defence, Herbert said the rest of the team needed to step up for the first leg of the tie, which takes place at the 105,000-capacity Estadio Azteca in Mexico City on 13 November.
"Losing your captain a week before a match of this magnitude is difficult but this is the nature of football," he said. "With Winston now sidelined, it presents an opportunity for other players to grasp and we will now move forward with the same levels of determination and commitment our group prides itself on."
Herbert's teams are known for their dour defence and he will be hoping to contain Mexico's attacking threat at the Azteca to give the Oceania champions a chance of sneaking a win in the return leg in Wellington on 20 November.