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Football: New Zealand make major changes for last qualifier

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

New Zealand will field Australian-born Andrew Durante in their final Oceania group World Cup qualifier against the Solomon Islands as they continue to push FIFA to rule on his eligibility.

Although Durante has taken New Zealand citizenship he was excluded from Friday's clash with New Caledonia because New Zealand football authorities had not received FIFA confirmation that he met all eligibility criteria.

New Zealand won the game 2-1 to clinch Oceania's spot in the next round of World Cup qualifying making their final Oceania pool match against the Solomons in Honiara next Tuesday a dead rubber.

With nothing at stake, manager Ricki Herbert has made sweeping changes in his squad, named on Saturday, resting 10 front line players and confirming Durante will get game time as they seek a ruling from FIFA.

Herbert had already signalled before the New Caledonia match that the 30-year-old centre back could play in Honiara.

He said it was a chance to get a "categorical yes or no" from FIFA, adding: "That's what we really want."

New All Whites captain Winston Reid, Chris Killen, Michael McGlinchey, Marco Rojas, Shane Smeltz, Tommy Smith, Ivan Vicelich and Chris Wood are among the senior players released from the squad.

"We can pretty much put a team on the pitch free from cards and injury-free. We can put out a team to fulfil a fixture," Herbert said.

"We also have a responsibility to manage the workload of our players at this busy time of year with a view to the November playoff matches."

Oceania, the weakest of the six FIFA confederations, does not have an automatic berth at the 2014 World Cup.

Instead, the top Oceania qualifier faces a two-leg play-off against the fourth-placed Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONACAF) side in November for a place in Brazil.

New Zealand's CONACAF opponents are yet to be determined.

New Zealand squad: Mark Paston, Aaron Scott, Ben Sigmund, Leo Bertos, Luke Rowe, Jacob Spoonley, Dan Keat, Ian Hogg, Cameron Lindsay, Jeremy Brockie, Kosta Barbarouses, Tim Payne, Aaron Clapham, Andrew Durante.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130323/football-new-zealand-make-major-changes-last-qualifier-0