All Whites coach Danny Hay said Tokyo Olympian Gianni Stensness’s decision to continue international football with Australia was “a kick in the guts.”
Stensness was born and raised across Tasman, but was eligible to play for New Zealand through his father. He played every minute as the OlyWhites Under-24 team advanced to the quarter-finals in Japan and were close to winning their first senior selection before making the decision.
Hay said Stensness reached out after signing for Viking in Norway after the Olympics and “signaled that he was considering the possibility of changing his allegiance to Australia – that they contacted him even before them. Olympics and had been working on it ever since.
â€œIt’s disappointing and a little kick in the guts considering he was an important part not only of the Olympics, but also of the Under-20s a few years earlier.
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“I think the opportunities New Zealand football has given him have allowed them to reach the position he is now, playing professionally in Europe, and obviously his performances have caught the attention of Australia.
â€œBut the reality is, in hindsight, he’s Australian – he was raised there, spent the vast majority of his life there – so I can understand that. It’s just something that we accept and we move forward.
Stensness had been called up to age group camps in Australia as part of the Central Coast Mariners academy system, but was brought to New Zealand in 2018 by Wellington Phoenix coach Mark Rudan, and made his international debut in the FIFA 2019 Under-20 age group. World Cup, where he scored a memorable long-distance goal in a victory over Norway.
Hay said the 22-year-old was “not a critical loss” as far as the All Whites are concerned, especially since he has yet to play for the senior national team, which has not played for almost 700 days due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
â€œYou could name seven players up front who are probably sitting in front of him in the pecking order. It’s probably more of a loss when you look at the longer term, but we don’t know how it’s going to develop or how some of our promising young talents are going to develop over the next few years as well.
While he wished Stensness had opened up about Australia’s interest in him ahead of the Olympics at the time, Hay said he couldn’t fault his efforts at the tournament, where he did. played as a center-back, rather than a defensive midfielder, where he has spent most of his career so far, and left his coach saying he “could really be world class in this position”.
It is unclear where he will fit into Socceroos coach Graham Arnold’s plans, but Hay said positional preferences had not been mentioned as Stensness had weighed his future in recent weeks.
OlyWhites midfielder Clayton Lewis reflects on New Zealand’s Olympic campaign.
“As soon as he says what he thinks, he has to do it in my eyes, because we want players who are 100% committed to playing for this country.”
Stensness played for Viking on Monday morning NZ time and did not respond to requests for comment, but even without him Hay was still able to name plenty of center-backs to a 21-man squad for the friendlies against Curacao and Bahrain next month.
Captain Winston Reid will travel but not play, as he’s just returned to training after suffering a knee injury at the Olympics, but Michael Boxall, Tommy Smith, and Bill Tuiloma will provide experienced options, and there’s also Nando Pijnaker, who played alongside Stensness at the Olympics, and Nikko Boxall, Michael’s younger brother.
The All Whites squad includes three OlyWhites players who are vying to win their first senior caps – midfielders Matt Garbett and Marko Stamenic and forward Joey Champness, who moved from Australia to New Zealand over early this year. They make up half of an uncapped six-person contingent, with full-backs Kelvin Kalua, Niko Kirwan and Dalton Wilkins also set to make their debuts.
Ryan Thomas was the only major omission, as Hay pointed out when he said earlier this month that the midfielder’s inclusion would be decided on a “window-to-window basis” as he attempts to assert itself at club level with PSV Eindhoven in the Netherlands. Eredivisie while taking care of his young family.
The matches against Curacao on October 10 and Bahrain on October 13 mark the unofficial start of the All Whites’ quest to qualify for next year’s World Cup in Qatar, which is set to start in earnest with a qualifying tournament in Oceania in March.
The best team from Oceania will then face the fourth best team from North America, Central America and the Caribbean, the fifth best team from Asia or the fifth best team from South America in a first leg. return. next june.
All Whites – October International Window
Goalkeepers (3): Stefan Marinovic (Hapoel Nof HaGalil / ISR; 25/0), Nik Tzanev (AFC Wimbledon / ENG; 1/0), Michael Woud (Almere City / NED; 2/0)
Defenders (9): Michael Boxall (Minnesota United / USA; 33/0), Nikko Boxall (SJK / FIN; 3/0), Liberato Cacace (Sint-Truiden / BEL; 3/0), Kelvin Kalua (Unattached; 0/0), Niko Kirwan (Padua / ITA; 0/0), Nando Pijnaker (FC HelsingÃ¸r / DEN; 1/0), Tommy Smith (Colchester United / ENG; 38/2), Bill Tuiloma (Portland Timbers / USA; 26/0), Dalton Wilkins (Kolding IF / DEN; 0/0)
Midfielder (4): Joe Bell (Viking / NOR; 2/0), Matt Garbett (Turin / ITA; 0/0), Sarpreet Singh (Jahn Regensburg / GER; 6/1), Marko Stamenic (HB KÃ¸ge / DEN; 0/0)
Forwards (5): Joey Champness (Giresunspor / TUR; 0/0), Andre de Jong (AmaZulu / RSA; 4/1), Elijah Just (FC HelsingÃ¸r / DEN; 2/0), Callum McCowatt (FC HelsingÃ¸r / DEN; 1/1), Chris Wood (Burnley / ENG; 57/24 )
Calendar (New Zealand two hours)
Sunday October 10, 5 a.m .: against Curacao
Wednesday October 13, 5 a.m .: in Bahrain