“The goal was an absolute dream come true. There is nothing more a young footballer dreams of,” recalls Lucas Imrie of his injury time winner against Paraguay at the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in Chile.
The goal catapulted New Zealand into the Round of 16 for the first time, a result that seemed inconceivable after the first up shellacking against France.
What did the Young All Whites learn from the 6-1 embarrassment?
“I learned the quality of opposition is really high and how incredibly deadly they are if you give them the slightest sniff. They would pounce off any minor mistake and punish us for it,” Imrie admits.
New Zealand battled to a turgid 0-0 draw against Syria. What did they expect from Paraguay?
“We knew Paraguay was a very strong team and we had to be at our very best to pose a threat. They were very strong, physical and technically good, as any South American team is. We knew we would have to battle and want it more,” Imrie says.
New Zealand held Paraguay to 1-1 in regulation time. If the score remained the same at fulltime New Zealand went home. Imrie captures his glorious moment.
“I knew we were piling on the pressure and they were getting rattled. I knew if we would keep creating chances even late in the game they might crack. Sarpreet Singh dinked a lovely ball over and I don’t really remember what happened next. I just saw that it was on my left foot (weaker foot) and knew I just had to hit it. When I saw it come off the post and roll into the net my emotions took over. I just couldn’t believe it.”
Imrie’s parents who were present were equally overwhelmed.
“My parents have no football background at all. They don’t know very much about it. My Dad calls a free kick a penalty, but they love supporting me and have always been there for me. It was great to share such an amazing moment with them,” Imrie says.
New Zealand nearly amazed Brazil, losing on a 94th minute penalty. Imrie reflects on the near-miss.
“Brazil are a very good side – one of the football’s great powers – so we knew we would have to be very structured, smart and disciplined. Coach Danny Hay got our tactics spot on and had us playing to our strengths and this gave us a great chance. Our keeper Michael Woud was a hero, great player. It was hard to accept the loss, but I am really proud of the effort.”
Imrie attends Sacred Heart College in Auckland which happens to be guided by the former All White.
He debuted for the First XI in Year 10 and concedes he “got some stick” from the senior players. However respect was quickly earned when last year he helped Sacred Heart win the Auckland league and cup double as well as the National Championship and Alex Harvey trophy for not losing at home for an entire season.
In 2015 Sacred Heart retained the league title and were runners up in the other two competitions.
“Sacred Heart have been absolutely amazing to me throughout the years. I want to especially thank Danny and my parents, they’ve helped me come a long way,” Imrie concludes.
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