|By EMMA STONEY
Andrew Durante has pledged his allegiance to New Zealand after being overlooked for Australia honours.
The Wellington Phoenix captain has confirmed his intention to play for the All Whites once his New Zealand citizenship is finalised and he receives approval from Fifa.
"It's a long process. I don't actually qualify to play until March. I've got to first go through all the government stuff, the citizenship and passports. Then once that is all done I have to get approval from Fifa," the 30-year-old central defender said.
"I'm committed to the process. It can take a while. I'm still cautious. I've been on the bench for a Socceroos game so there is always that that Fifa can look at.
"But the process is in motion and hopefully it all turns out all right and then in March everything is rosy."
Sydney-born Durante's possible switch had been talked about as long as a year ago. But he acknowledged that missing out on Socceroos selection since then had played a part in his decision to change allegiance.
"Obviously not being selected in the Socceroos has made the decision a lot easier," he said.
"It's my birth country and I've very close ties with it. But there's an opportunity to play international football. I've got very close links to New Zealand. I've been here for five years. I'm captain of the only professional football club here. My daughter was born here. I own property here.
"It's home to me at the moment so it feels right.
"Ricki [All Whites and Wellington Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert] is quite keen for it to happen, which is always a positive. The players have also been really positive about it. It feels right. We'll see how it turns out come March time.
"It's a big decision but one I feel confident that it's a good decision and hopefully it benefits everyone involved."
Durante, however, will not be getting too excited about the prospect of international football until everything is confirmed, after watching fellow Australian and Phoenix team-mate Vinnie Lia's hopes dashed.
"I don't want to get caught in a situation like Vinnie where he came out and said he'd love to play [for the All Whites] and then Fifa didn't allow it and his hopes got crushed a bit. I'm kind of cautious but in the back of my head I'm quite keen to play for the All Whites."
New Zealand have World Cup qualifiers against New Caledonia and the Solomon Islands on March 22 and 26, respectively.
And should Durante get the go ahead to play in those matches his arrival in the squad would be timely, given the uncertainty around All Whites skipper Ryan Nelsen's playing future.
Nelsen, who plays for Queens Park Rangers in the English Premier League, was unveiled as the new coach of MLS side Toronto FC earlier this week, prompting speculation he had played his last game for New Zealand.
Herbert has yet to hear from the defender.
"It's not my position to say whether Ryan has retired or not. At this stage I believe he hasn't," the coach said.
"I'm sure if he makes that decision. It's a really hard, tough decision. It's a personal decision and if he makes it that's certainly his call.
"It's a footballer's career. It's a massive move in his life. It's a great step for him, a real challenge again. He enjoys those. Let's wait and see. I'm not predicting it [retirement] for him.
"As the current national coach he's great for the side and great to have around. Let's wait and see."