Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

nzherald - Even if Telstra Dome in Melbourne is packed for the All Blacks' World Cup opener today, it won't be the biggest crowd watching a New Zealand team in action this weekend.

Two days before the All Whites and Iran meet in Tehran for their Asia/Oceania Challenge, more than 90,000 tickets have been sold for the game.

By kick-off, at 1.35am Monday NZT, the 100,000-seat Azadi Stadium should be sold out.

In his first assignment since a disappointing Confederations Cup, coach Mick Waitt has rung the changes - positional and personnel.

Youngsters Tony Lochhead and Leo Bertos will make their full international debuts.

Lochhead will replace Gerard Davis at left back, allowing Davis to revert to his more favoured role on the right.

New captain Ryan Nelsen will switch from his customary role at centre-back to the midfield, where he will replace Ivan Vicelich who goes back to his more customary All White role in central defence.

Vicelich is joined at centre-half by 28-year-old Che Bunce, who is recalled for his 17th international - seven years after his debut, against China in 1996, and three years since he last played for the national team.

Bertos will play in midfield with Duncan Oughton, switched from right back, Nelsen and Simon Elliott.

Noah Hickey and Aaran Lines will carry the attacking responsibilities.

Goalkeeper Mark Paston returns for his third international - a long time after his first appearance, against Indonesia in September 1997.

With an eye to the Olympic qualifiers, Waitt has selected under-23 internationals Glen Moss, Rupesh Puna, Allan Pearce and David Mulligan to play off the bench.

They join Bertos and Lochhead as players eligible for the Olympic matches.

"We have a number of new players being given an opportunity to experience international football in front of a huge crowd against quality opposition," said Waitt.

This is the third meeting between the two countries. In 1973 they drew 0-0 in Auckland. Five years later in Korea, Iran won 2-1.

Closer to home, the Football Kingz face a tough assignment as they try to turn their season around.

Playing defending champions Perth Glory at Ericsson Stadium tomorrow, the Kingz are up against it.

Two weeks ago against Melbourne Knights, Perth's starting XI had 1953 NSL outings between them. The Kingz' total league games - for their entire 24-strong squad - was just 540.

"We know it is not easy," said Kingz coach Ken Dugdale. "But we are prepared to give it a go." In the only northern game in the national women's league this weekend, Force3 (Waikato/Bay of Plenty) meet Southern in Hamilton.

All Whites to play Iran: Mark Paston, Gerard Davis, Che Bunce, Ivan Vicelich, Tony Lochhead, Duncan Oughton, Simon Elliott, Ryan Nelsen, Aaran Lines, Noah Hickey, Leo Bertos. Substitutes: Glen Moss, David Mulligan, Rupesh Puna, Allan Pearce, Kris Bouckenooghe, Glen Collins, Michael Wilson.