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Confeds tilt central to All Whites' 2017

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 22/12/2016 Angelo Risso

Gearing up for a positive Confederations Cup run will be front and centre in Anthony Hudson's mind as he leads his All Whites into 2017.

The Kiwi football side rose one place to 109th in the most recent FIFA rankings released on Thursday, having won one and drawn two of their last four games.

A 2-1 loss to Mexico in early October was followed by an impressive 1-1 draw with USA, before a 2-0 win and 0-0 tie against OFC rivals New Caledonia.

However their ranking, more than 60 below their all-time best in 2002, still dwindles in comparison to Confederations Cup opponents Russia, Mexico and Portugal.

European champions Portugal, led by Real Madrid ace Cristiano Ronaldo, sit in eighth on the rankings, while Mexico remain at 18th.

Cup hosts Russia, meanwhile, have dropped one spot to 56th after a tough 2016 in which they won just three of their 12 internationals.

The trio of Group B sides are unlikely to fear New Zealand, who have only two World Cup qualifiers against Fiji scheduled before the June tournament.

They'll be expected to cruise through their tussles with the Bula Boys in Suva and Wellington before being forced to change their approach in Russia.

Pre-tournament friendlies may also be arranged against sides from Group A, including Germany, Chile and trans-Tasman foes Australia.

Hudson nevertheless insisted last month that his side were travelling to eastern Europe to make a mark on the tournament.

"On one hand, it's going to be amazing, and of course we're excited to play against these teams," Hudson said.

"On the other hand, the more realistic side is what we want to get out of it.

"We want to give them incredibly hard games."

Hudson is aided in his quest by the positive form of several All Whites, most notably in-form Leeds No.9 Chris Wood, who has already scored 14 goals this season.

Speedy winger Marco Rojas is also beginning to hit his straps for Melbourne Victory after several years in the club wilderness.

Auckland City young gun Clayton Lewis, 19, said the class and experience of top players such as Wood and skipper Winston Reid could make all the difference.

"They bring you under their wing and tell you all you need to know to be in that sort of situation," the six-cap midfielder said.

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