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Football focus shifts for Ingham

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 28/03/2017 Cathy Walshe

All Whites midfielder Jai Ingham faces a dizzying turnaround this week, as former teammates become uncompromising opponents within the space of days.

On Tuesday, 23-year-old Ingham made his international debut as part of the New Zealand team which downed Fiji 2-0 in the second leg of their World Cup Oceania qualifier in Wellington.

On Sunday, Ingham's focus will turn to the business end of the A-League as his Melbourne Victory club host the Wellington Phoenix at AAMI Park.

Six All Whites teammates will be included in the Phoenix squad - and one Fijian opponent in Roy Krishna - but Ingham has no worries about the volte-face.

"They're all great guys, but when you go back to your club, and you play against them, you play for the jersey that you put on," he said.

"I'll go back and hope to keep performing for my club Melbourne Victory, and hopefully we keep winning and head on to the finals."

Ingham, who made his international debut from the bench for the last half-hour against Fiji, joins All Whites and Victory teammate Marco Rojas in tackling the Phoenix.

The two teams are at opposite ends of the end-of-season spectrum: second-placed Victory are assured of a play-off spot while seventh-placed Wellington have only a mathematical hope of making the cut.

But while Ingham's focus will be centred solely on helping Melbourne to an A-League title over the next month or so, the All Whites won't be too far behind.

Alongside 17-year-old brother Dane, who started at right back for New Zealand on Tuesday, he's keen to push his claim for inclusion in coach Anthony Hudson's Confederations Cup team.

The Kiwis have drawn Russia, Portugal and Mexico in pool play in the high-profile tournament in June, and Ingham is keen to make the final 23-strong squad.

"But there's so much depth and so much quality that you've got to keep performing no matter what," he said.

"There's so much competition for positions, especially in that front third."

Born in Australia, the Ingham brothers qualify for the All Whites through their Kiwi mother and were also eligible for Samoa.

But one phone conversation with Hudson had the pair ready to buy into his World Cup dream.

"He has a great vision here," Ingham said.

"Playing for the All Whites is huge - it's an honour to put this jersey on."

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