‘It’s shaping up to be a really exciting summer’ – Sligo’s Nando Pijnaker gets call for New Zealand World Cup play-off

Aidan Fitzmaurice

Sligo Rovers man Nando Pijnaker says he's ready for a hectic summer which could see him earn a ticket to the World Cup finals with New Zealand.

Defender Pijnaker, on loan to Sligo from Portuguese side Rio Ave, received a boost today when he was included in New Zealand's 26-man squad for their games in June, two friendly matches ahead of a winner-takes-all World Cup playoff against Costa Rica, in Qatar on June 14th, with the winning side advancing to the finals.

“We know this is a massive moment for football in New Zealand and I believe these are the players that give us the best possible chance of qualifying for the FIFA World Cup later this year," manager Danny Hay said of his squad, which includes Premier League star Chris Wood.

“I’m very happy with the squad we have assembled. The vast majority were part of the qualifying campaign, and a significant number were in the Olympic side, so this is a group that understands how we want to play and what is expected of them."

Pijnaker will miss Rovers' game at home to Dundalk in June but he's eager for World Cup duty.

“For sure there is a big build up to that game. We have actually done a bunch of tours in the Middle East and played games there 3-4 times at this stage which will hopefully stand in our favour. We know what to expect, we know what the pitch will be like and how the weather will be," Pijnaker told sligorovers.com.

"In international football you don’t get much time together before you meet for the matches so it is important that I am doing as well as I can for Rovers and playing well, then hopefully it will be same for my team-mates and they will all be doing as well as they can.

"So yes 100% it is shaping up to be a really exciting summer and I think you play your best football when you are enjoying it. I am enjoying mine at the moment and hope that things can continue to go well.”

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