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Serbia Provide NZ With Tough Challenge

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Wellington, May 28 NZPA - All Whites coach Ricki Herbert has labelled Sunday's warm-up match against Serbia as possibly the toughest game his team will face, even including their three soccer World Cup matches next month.

The New Zealanders arrived yesterday in the picturesque Austrian market town of St Lambrecht for an 11-day training camp at altitude ahead of the World Cup beginning in South Africa on June 11.

With the All Whites backing up from a 1-2 loss to Australia on Monday, Herbert was expecting a tough match early on Sunday (3.15am NZT).

"Serbia could be one of the hardest games that we have, including the World Cup. They're going to be right up there,"

Herbert said he expected Serbia to offer a physical game for the All Whites to test themselves against.

"They're a big, tall, strong side -- they'll be a good footballing side with presence and that aerial ability."

He said the All Whites would bring similar strengths to the game.

"We've got some great aerial strengths, I think we saw that in abundance against Australia. That might not have quite the same effect so there might be a sort of balancing of how much ball we get in that front third."

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.

Brown has had surgery in Auckland to repair the shoulder fracture he suffered against Australia.

He has had three screws inserted into the bone to secure the fracture and will visit his specialist in a week's time for another assessment to determine whether he can head to South Africa within a fortnight.

Herbert will also be missing Chris Killen this weekend, with the striker travelling to England for his wedding.

The Middlesbrough striker will return to the squad soon after, and will be available for a friendly against Slovenia in Slovenia next Saturday.

Killen's absence gives 19-year-old West Brom striker Chris Wood a chance to shine, Herbert said.

"He always going to get an opportunity -- I've been extremely pleased with what he's done coming off the bench in the time he's had.

"It'll be a tough game for him to play in, but a really good benchmark of where he's at."

Midfielder Michael McGlinchey would be rested for the Serbian game, with coaching and medical staff not prepared to take chances with a hamstring niggle.

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