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Wood To Lead Kiwis' World Cup Bid

Chris Wood captains All Whites as band of Clarets hope to close in on Russia 2018

25 August 2017

New signing Chris Wood will captain New Zealand as one of the growing number of Clarets aiming to take a step closer to the 2018 World Cup finals over the up-coming international ‘break’.

Wood will lead the All Whites into their double-header against the Solomon Islands after West Ham defender Winston Reid was forced to withdraw from the squad through injury.

Auckland-born Wood – who has been capped 52 times by his country and worn the skipper's armband around 15 times - will fly out to link up with the  national squad after Burnley’s Premier League game against Tottenham at Wembley on Sunday.

New Zealand face the Solomon Islands – the two group winners in the Oceania section of World Cup qualifying – in Auckland on 1 September with the return leg in Honiara on 5 September.

The winners will then play the fifth-placed team in the South American section, home and away, in November with the winners of that tie earning their place in next summer’s finals in Russia.

Argentina currently occupy that spot, but with four games to go in the South American group it may not stay that way.

Meanwhile, Steven Defour’s impressive start to the season in the Clarets’ midfield has earned him a re-call to the Belgium squad as they look to all but secure their place in Russia.

Steven Defour's last appearance for Belgium came in October, 2016

The Group H leaders, managed by former Everton and Wigan boss Roberto Martinez, are at home to Gibraltar on Thursday, 31 August and away to second-placed Greece on Sunday, 3 September.

Winger Johann Berg Gudmundsson is the Iceland squad for their qualifiers away to Finland on Saturday, 2 September and at home to Ukraine on 5 September.

Iceland are currently second in Group I, behind leaders Croatia on goal difference.

Closer to home, Sam Vokes has been included in the Wales squad for their qualifiers against Austria and Moldova.

The Clarets’ striker is in line to win a 51st cap when Wales host Austria on Saturday, 2 September in Cardiff, before travelling to Chisinau to face Moldova on Tuesday, 5 September.

Both matches are crucial to Wales’ chances of qualifying for the finals, with Chris Coleman’s side currently sitting third in Group D, four points behind joint leaders Ireland and Serbia.

Burnley’s five Republic of Ireland internationals – Jon Walters, Robbie Brady, Jeff Hendrick, Stephen Ward and Kevin Long – had already been named in Martin O’Neill’s provisional squad for their qualifiers in Georgia on Saturday, 2 September and against Serbia in Dublin on Tuesday, 5 September.

However, Walters, who is looking to become the 39th player to win 50 caps for Ireland, is likely to require a fitness check after picking up an ankle injury in the Clarets’ mid-week Carabao Cup win over Blackburn Rovers.

Goalkeeper Tom Heaton’s place in the England squad to face Malta and Slovakia was confirmed by manager Gareth Southgate on Thursday.

Finally, Development Squad striker Harry Limb has been named by Northern Ireland's under-19s for two friendlies at home to Cyprus on 3 and 5 September.

The 18-year-old has also been invited to train with the under-21s ahead of their European Championships qualifier against Albania at Lurgan on Thursday, 31 August.

Goalkeeper Conor Mitchell, currently on loan at Chester FC, is in the under-21 squad.

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