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IT COULD be a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire for Wellington Phoenix FC’s New Zealand international contingent this weekend.
The Phoenix tackle North Queensland Fury in a Hyundai A-League 2009/10 round 11 match in Townsville on what promises to be balmy Saturday evening.
The Fury see the heat and humidity of their home town as a massive advantage, though the Phoenix’s All Whites have already had a taste of sweltering conditions following New Zealand’s World Cup away qualifier against Bahrain last weekend and have devised a plan to counter the hosts’ trump card.
With the mercury hitting 40C in Manama, the Phoenix’s All Whites – Tim Brown, Tony Lochhead, Leo Bertos, Ben Sigmund and Mark Paston – got first-hand experience playing in energy-sapping temperatures. That the All Whites were able to grab an impressive 0-0 draw was testament to the players’ ability to handle the heat.
Temperatures will be a little lower in Townsville on Saturday – the forecast maximum of 32C comparatively chilly compared to the heat in Bahrain – but the conditions will still be taxing for the Phoenix.
Brown said the onus would be on the Phoenix to play smart at Dairy Farmers Stadium.
“You’ve got to change the way you play because the heat limits what you can do. You have to be clever in maximising your ability to run, for example, because you’ve only a finite amount of energy and the heat can take it out of you quickly.
“It’s a case of being sensible because the first thing that goes is your head and eventually your whole body wants to stop, so you wind up doing silly things you normally wouldn’t do. In that respect we have to play smarter, not harder.”
The 7.30pm (local time) kick off will help keep the mercury down to reasonable levels but it’s clear the Phoenix won’t experience the conditions they’re used to at Westpac Stadium.
“The cooler conditions at home allow us to really run teams around,” Brown said. “While many of the boys in the team are used to playing in higher temperatures, and it will be less severe in Townsville than it was in the Middle East, we will have to be careful and make sure we’re fresh and rested.”
That’s especially important for the Phoenix’s All Whites, who only spent two days at home after returning from Bahrain before heading off the Townsville.
“The thought of going back to the airport isn’t an exciting one for us,” Brown said, “but everyone’s fit and firing.”
What the Phoenix are excited about is how they are performing. Unbeaten in the past five matches, the Phoenix are keen to break their run of draws in matches they’ve dominated with a win on Saturday night.
“We’re on the cusp of a really good run and I speak for everyone when I say the confidence is really high,” said Brown. “There’s great spirit in the team and, while results haven’t been what we’d like, we know that we’re playing well and that the good results will come.”
Saturday, October 17, 2009
North Queensland Fury v Wellington Phoenix
Dairy Farmers Stadium, Townsville
Local kickoff: 7.30pm (10.30pm NZDST)
Referee: Chris Beath
Live and exclusive broadcast on Sky Sport 1 and Fox Sports 1. Hyundai A-League club broadcast partner is The Radio Network 1035 AM (Wellington).
North Queensland Fury squad: 1. Paul HENDERSON (GK), 2. Robbie MIDDLEBY, 3. Chris TADROSSE, 6. Ufuk TALAY, 7. Jason SPAGNUOLO, 9. Robbie FOWLER (c), 10. Jeremy BROCKIE, 11. David WILLIAMS, 12. Jack HINGERT, 14. Chris GROSSMAN, 15. Fred AGIUS, 18. James ROBINSON, 19. Daniel MCBREEN, 20. Justin PASFIELD, (RGK), 21. John TAMBOURAS, 24. Dyron DAAL. 23. Rostyn GRIFFITHS * two be omitted*
In: Ufuk TALAY (returns from suspension), Jeremy BROCKIE (promoted)
Out: Osama MALIK (not selected), Paul KOHLER (not selected)
Unavailable: Jacob Timpano (hamstring – indefinite), Karl DODD (knee – 5 weeks), Shane STEFANUTTO (knee – indefinite), Scott WILSON (knee – indefinite)
Wellington Phoenix squad: 1. Mark PASTON (gk), 2. Manny MUSCAT, 3. Tony LOCHHEAD, 6. Tim BROWN, 7. Leo BERTOS, 8. Paul IFILL, 9. Chris GREENACRE, 10. Michael FERRANTE, 11. DANIEL, 12. Jiang CHEN, 13. Troy HEARFIELD, 17. Vince LIA, 18. Ben SIGMUND, 20. Reece CROWTHER (gk), 22. Andrew DURANTE (c)
In: Michael FERRANTE (promoted), Jiang CHEN (promoted)
Out: Adrian CACERES (hamstring – 1 week), Costa BARBAROUSES (omitted)
Unavailable: Jon McKAIN (quad – 1 week)
* Head-to-Head: Played 1: North Queensland Fury wins 0, Wellington Phoenix wins 0 (1 draw)