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Smeltz out of Nations Cup

NZN 24/05/2016

A recurring foot injury has ruled All Whites striker Shane Smeltz out of the Oceania Nations Cup beginning in Papua New Guinea on Saturday.

The 34-year-old, who has scored 24 goals from 51 internationals for New Zealand, was managing a strain to his plantar fascia, the flat band of tissue that supports the arch of the foot.

But All Whites coach Anthony Hudson has decided it isn't worth risking further injury to Smeltz, and has replaced him with promising attacking midfielder Luka Prelevic.

"It's disappointing because we'd love to have Smeltzy with us," Hudson said on Tuesday from the All Whites training camp in Brisbane.

"We've been monitoring him for quite a few weeks now, and it's been causing him a lot of problems.

"He's been having injections and isn't right. We need him fit, and it ultimately wouldn't be good for us and it wouldn't be good for him if we forced him here."

Hudson rates Prelevic, a 20-year-old forward who plays his football for the Pascoe Vale SC in Melbourne, highly.

Prelevic was a member of the All Whites under-23 squad who played in Papua New Guinea last year, and featured in the team's opening 2-0 win in their training match against Brisbane club side Western Pride FC.

"Luka did very well for us in the islands last year - he is a big player, a strong player, an attacking midfielder and I have no problem with Luka coming into the squad," Hudson said.

"It's not like we're calling in someone cold. We are going to take a player who has spent a good chunk of time with the team and knows how we want to play."

After a successful two week camp in Auckland and Brisbane, Hudson said the All Whites can't wait to leave for Papua New Guinea on Wednesday and begin final preparations for their opener against Fiji on Saturday.

The team has already lost midfielder Clayton Lewis, who has been stood down while being investigated for a possible drugs breach.

He has been replaced by experienced striker Jeremy Brockie, called in from his South African club team SuperSport United.

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