NZ coach confident Nelsen will be fit

WELLINGTON - New Zealand assistant coach Brian Turner is confident captain Ryan Nelsen will be fit for the crucial first leg of their World Cup qualifying playoff against Bahrain on Saturday.

Nelsen missed Blackburn Rovers' 6-2 defeat by Arsenal in the English Premier League on Sunday with a back injury, but Turner said he expected Nelsen would lead his country in Manama.

"Our physio Roland Jeffery spoke to Ryan overnight and while he couldn't take part against Arsenal, he's having treatment and we're confident he'll be right to play against Bahrain," Turner said before he left for the Gulf on Monday.

Nelsen is expected to miss the first few training sessions and his progress will be closely monitored by New Zealand medical staff, Turner said.

Turner and several New Zealand based players left to join coach Ricki Herbert and his A-League Wellington Phoenix players already in Dubai, where they will prepare for the game before travelling to Bahrain on Friday.

The second leg of the playoff between Oceania champions New Zealand and Bahrain, the fifth-placed Asian side, for next year's finals in South Africa is scheduled for Nov. 14 in Wellington.

New Zealand have qualified for just one previous World Cup finals, in Spain in 1982.