New Zealand has lost a top international football prospect to Australia.
Gianni Stensness, who played for the OlyWhites at the Tokyo Games, has told head coach Danny Hay his allegiance lies elsewhere and has chosen to represent Australia at senior level.
Hay said he’s disappointed but accepts the decision.
“I’m not going to say it isn’t disappointing to see Gianni make that choice,” Hay said in a New Zealand Football statement today.
“He was part of the Olympic team that showed how exciting the future of New Zealand football is looking and I believe his time in our national setup has played a major role in his development. Ultimately it is his decision, and we will respect it.”
Meanwhile, six uncapped players have made the 21-man All Whites squad to play against Curaçao and Bahrain next month.
It also features 10 players who were part of the Olympic side that reached the quarter-finals in Tokyo.
The side is made up of players based outside of Australia and New Zealand due to travel restrictions on returning to both countries.
“I think it speaks to the strength of the talent we are developing, and the success they are having overseas, that we are able to assemble a squad without any players from New Zealand and Australia,” said Hay.
“Obviously we would prefer to be in a position to include players from this part of the world but I’m confident in the team we have been able to bring together and I know they are all chomping at the bit to get back on the pitch after such a long time.”
Winston Reid isn’t available to play, having recently returned from injury, but will join the side in a mentoring role.
21-man squad is:
Stefan Marinovic (25 Caps) Hapoel Nof HaGalil, Israel
Nikola Tzanev (1 Cap) AFC Wimbledon, England
Michael Woud (2 Caps) Almere City FC, Netherlands
Michael Boxall (33 Caps) Minnesota United, USA
Nikko Boxall (3 Caps) SJK Seinäjoki, Finland
Liberato Cacace (3 Caps) Sint-Truidense VV, Belgium
Kelvin Kalua* (0 Caps) Eastern Suburbs, New Zealand (currently on trial in Europe)
Niko Kirwan (0 Caps) Padova, Italy
Nando Pijnaker (1 Cap) FC Helsingør (loan from Rio Ave FC), Denmark
Tommy Smith (38 Caps) Colchester United, England
Bill Tuiloma (26 Caps) Portland Timbers, USA
Dalton Wilkins* (0 Caps) Kolding IF (loan from FC Helsingør), Denmark
Joe Bell (2 Caps) Viking FK, Norway
Joseph Champness* (0 Caps) Giresunspor, Turkey
Matthew Garbett* (0 Caps) Torino, Italy
Sarpreet Singh (6 Caps) SSV Jahn Regensburg (loan from FC Bayern Münich), Germany
Marko Stamenic* (0 Caps) HB Køge (on loan from FC Copenhagen), Denmark
Andre de Jong (4 Caps) AmaZulu FC, South Africa
Elijah Just (2 Caps) FC Helsingør, Denmark
Callum McCowatt (1 Cap) FC Helsingør, Denmark
Chris Wood (57 Caps) Burnley FC, England
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