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Gasping All Whites Touch Down For Cup Buildup

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Ricki Herbert
Ricki Herbert

Wellington, May 27 NZPA - Coach Ricki Herbert has already felt the effects of altitude in Austria after the All Whites touched down today for an 11-day camp and two important World Cup warmup soccer matches.

After about 40 hours of travel since departing Melbourne where they played out a creditable 1-2 defeat to the Socceroos, the All Whites arrived today in the picturesque Austrian market town of St Lambrecht where they face Serbia early on Sunday (3.15am NZT).

At just over 1000m above sea level, Herbert was already feeling the effects as he prepared to put his side through two training sessions.

"I went for a walk this morning and started puffing a bit so maybe it does work," he said with a laugh.

"That's why we're here and we need to maximise that time."

Herbert said the camp, which also includes a match against Slovenia on Saturday next week (NZT), made it sink in just how close the All Whites were to their first World Cup since 1982.

"The complex is superb. I haven't seen the training ground yet but if it's like this it'll be fine.

"Psychologically we're really in that World Cup mode now. We've got teams like England and Japan preparing here so there's a real sense that we're back on the world stage again."

After an impressive first half against Australia when they led 1-0, Herbert said there would be changes to the side to face 15th-ranked Serbia as he gets a look at all the contenders from his 22-man squad, without the injured Tim Brown.

It was also good to be into full World Cup mode after the intense buildup and public interest in Auckland and Melbourne.

"It's been euphoria, even in Australia it was the same. Speaking to the staff and the players it's good to be here.

"We're on the grass doing everything that we need to do. We go into this game firmly with players' performances at the forefront. We'll try a couple of different combinations, it may or may not work."

One change against Serbia will have to be a midfield replacement for Brown, who underwent successful shoulder surgery today in his race to be fit for South Africa next month.

New Zealand Football released a statement saying Brown underwent a 105-minute procedure to repair the fracture in his upper arm, suffered when he fell heavily during the team's defeat to Australia.

Brown had three screws inserted into the bone to secure the fracture.

"Initial indications are positive and that the surgery went well, but it is too early yet to say what the recovery time frame for the injury is," the statement said.

Brown will remain in hospital for the next two days and should be out on Saturday.

He will visit his specialist in a week's time for another assessment to determine whether he can head to South Africa within a fortnight.

Brown rated his chances of playing at his first World Cup as 50-50 when returning to Auckland on Tuesday. He has until June 14 to prove his fitness -- when Herbert has to name his final squad for the World Cup, 24 hours before the All Whites' opening match against Slovakia.

Wellington midfielder Cole Peverley today flew out to join the All Whites in Austria as cover for Brown.

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