The New Zealand U-17 men have been edged 1-0 by the Thailand U-18 men’s side at the Panda Cup in Chengdu, China.
The José Figueira coached team were looking to finish the tournament on a high note after being beaten 4-0 by the eventual winners the Korea Republic two days earlier.
But the Thai side, who finished the tournament strongly with two wins in their final two games to finish runners-up, took the initiative early and held on valiantly against New Zealand who went down to 10-men in the 49th minute.
Thailand’s Achitpol Keereerom scored in the second minute of the game to finish second on the goal-scoring stakes with two goals.
Figueira said it was a tough result to finish on after such a promising start with a 2-0 win over China PR.
“Tough one to swallow [tonight],” he said. “The players showed so much determination, heart and personality with the ball from the start to end. Playing with 10-men for final 40 minutes is always tough but they never stopped and could’ve got something from the game. This tournament has been a great experience.”
In the later game, Hwang Jaehwan’s hat-trick helped the Korea Republic defeat the hosts China 3-0 in their final game. Korea went through the tournament undefeated to finish with nine points and a goal difference of +8.
The New Zealand team, a year younger than their opponents at the event, will take plenty of lessons from the Panda Cup as they get ready for the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Brazil later this year.
Thailand U-18s 1 (Achitpol Keereerom 2’)
New Zealand U-17s 0
The New Zealand U-17 men’s team that takes part in the Panda Cup later this month will have a fresh look to it after the welcoming of several new players into the fold.
The core of the group that qualified their country for this year’s FIFA U-17 World Cup last September have kept their places but will be joined by five newcomers in Nicholas Milicich, Robert Sabo, Jackson Simpkin, Keegan Jelacic and Jesse Randall.
Coach Jose Figueira has deliberately kept an open mind as he looks to find a winning formula for the World Cup, which will be staged in the football-mad nation of Brazil in October.
That policy has unearthed the likes of Simpkin and Jelacic, who are both based in Australia, while their fellow newcomers have likewise caught the eye in recent months.
The three-match format of the Panda Cup serves to replicate the group stages of a World Cup and Figueira feels the experience will prove invaluable.
“First of all, it’s about whether the players can go out there and show their personality and the way we want to play against some top opposition,” he says.
“Secondly, it’s the mentality. It’s going to be big crowds, playing away from home and playing under pressure. We had that experience at the qualifiers of playing in front of 10,000 fans and we’ll hopefully get that again. We want to see which players come through with flying colours in that test and it should be exciting for us.”
New Zealand will take part in the Panda Cup at the Chengdu Shuangliu Sports Centre, Chengdu from 25 – 29 May.
New Zealand U-17 squad for Panda Cup
Alexander Paulsen (Capital Football, Lower Hutt City, Scots College)
Luca Taylor (Northern Football, Birkenhead United, Mt Albert Grammar School)
Max Drake (Capital Football, Lower Hutt City, Westlake Boys High School)
Adam Hillis (Capital Football, Lower Hutt City, Scots College)
Nathan Lobo (Northern Football, Birkenhead United, Liston College)
Nicholas Milicich (Northern Football, Birkenhead United, St Peter’s College)
Finn O’Connor (Capital Football, Lower Hutt City, Scots College)
Robert Sabo (Capital Football, Western Suburbs, Tawa College)
Jackson Simpkin (Brisbane City)
Sean Bright (Capital Football, Western Suburbs, Tawa College)
Henry Hamilton (Capital Football, Lower Hutt City, Wellington College)
Marko Stamenic (Capital Football, Western Suburbs, St Patrick’s College Silverstream)
Campbell Strong (Northern Football, Eastern Suburbs, Sacred Heart College)
Matthew Garbett (Capital Football, Western Suburbs, Wellington College)
Keegan Jelacic (Queensland Lions)
Jesse Randall (Capital Football, North Wellington, Rongotai College)
Oskar van Hattum (Capital Football, Lower Hutt City, NZ Institute of Sport)
Bradley Wilson (Northern Football, Western Springs, St Peter’s College)
Panda Cup schedule
China vs New Zealand, 7pm local time
New Zealand vs Korea Republic, 3pm local time
New Zealand vs Thailand, 3pm local time
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