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Brazil on horizon for Smeltz and Rojas
Brazil on horizon for Smeltz and Rojas

Shane Smeltz and Marco Rojas will be on opposite sides when Perth Glory host Melbourne Victory at nib Stadium on Saturday, but they hope to form a potent partnership in New Zealand's bid to qualify for a second successive World Cup.

The All Whites are on the brink of advancing to the final phase of qualification - a two-legged intercontinental play-off with the fourth-ranked CONCACAF nation.

Smeltz said Rojas, 21, was ready to steer New Zealand to next year's tournament in Brazil after his remarkable A-League season.

"I know him quite well from the national team and he's a really good kid," 31-year-old Smeltz said.

"It's pleasing to see that he's progressed this quickly this season.

"Last season he had a bit of a slow introduction to Victory and people sort of questioned him a little bit, but he's come out and proved them wrong this season and got off to a flyer.

"I think he's the standout player this season so far.

"For his sake and for everyone involved in New Zealand, hopefully he can maintain that."

Rojas has scored 10 goals and delivered six assists in 15 appearances for Victory this season, his fourth in the A-League after making his debut for Wellington at 17.

The diminutive winger's attacking flair has not gone unnoticed by overseas clubs.

"We've got some big games coming and we're looking to go to another World Cup, so that's certainly the form you want your players in," Smeltz said.

"I know he's a player who wants to go all the way to the top and he'll look to go overseas at some stage.

"Whether that's now or later, who knows? That's up to him, but I'm sure if he chooses the right path he can go all the way."

New Zealand are three points clear of their next opponents, New Caledonia, and round out the Oceania phase of qualification with a game against Solomon Islands.

A win over New Caledonia on March 22 would put them through to the intercontinental play-off.

Smeltz scored in a 1-1 draw with Italy at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, a result which played a major role in preventing the reigning champions from advancing to the knockout stage.

The All Whites were also knocked out in the group stage, but left the tournament unbeaten with three draws.