(Reuters) - New Zealand will be under-strength at Oceania's World Cup qualifying tournament but should still have enough quality to ensure success, coach Danny Hay said on Tuesday.
The eight-team tournament will be staged in Qatar on March 17-30 to decide which team advances to a playoff against the fourth-placed side from the CONCACAF region, which features nations from North and Central America, and the Caribbean.
World governing body FIFA have given the Oceania nations a one-day extension to the March 21-29 international window but Hay will be missing a number of Europe-based players for New Zealand's first match against Papua New Guinea on March 18.
Newcastle United striker Chris Wood, Denmark-based midfielder Joe Bell and Italy-based defender Liberato Cacace are among those expected to miss out.
Hay will have about 30 players landing in Qatar at different times, including a core group of 12 who will arrive before the tournament and stay throughout.
"There's enough quality there. The vast majority are in good professional environments, so there's really no excuse," the All Whites coach told New Zealand media.
"We should have enough quality on the pitch, and as long as we get the balance right, in terms of how we approach the games, we should be good to go.
"There's been some tough decisions, because there are some players that were only available for one or two games and so you have to make that decision around, is it worth bringing them all the way over for that?"
New Zealand were the last Oceania team to qualify for the World Cup when they made the 2010 finals in South Africa.
After Papua New Guinea, they meet Group B rivals Fiji on March 21 and New Caledonia three days later.
The top two teams of the tournament's two groups advance to semi-finals before the March 30 final.
New Zealand beat Solomon Islands to finish top of Oceania qualifying for Russia in 2018 but their hopes of appearing at a third World Cup were dashed by Peru in a continental playoff.
(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Robert Birsel)