Two years ago at the FIFA Under-17 World Championships in Chile, Sacred Heart College student Lucas Imrie scored a last play goal against Paraguay to propel New Zealand into the round of 16 for the first time.
On October 6 in Mumbai, New Zealand kicks off the 2017 edition of the tournament against Turkey and another Sacred Heart lad is hoping to have a big impact in front of goal.
Matt Palmer scored 22 goals in the Auckland Premier League this year as Sacred Heart retained the title for the fourth consecutive season. What does Palmer expect from the Kiwis opposition in India?
“We’ve seen a fair bit of what our opposition can do and how they play. We expect them to be fast paced teams who play with good intent and speed. We feel Mali will be the hardest team to beat as they were second at the last World Cup,” Palmer reveals.
Paraguay will be intent on revenge when they meet New Zealand in the second group game. Can the South American giants be toppled again?
“We hope to make it out of our group and progress to the knockout stages. We have a talented team who have worked hard to get here. We will be competitive.”
Four years ago Palmer changed his position seeking greater competition himself.
“I started playing striker a few years ago. Previously I played fullback and moved up the pitch to be a winger. I started playing First XI football at the start of Year 12 and that has really benefitted my footballing ability. My coach Danny Hay has pushed me and given me multiple opportunities. He is the reason I made this team.”
Sacred Heart had to really push themselves to win the Premier League. They beat Saint Kentigern College 4-2 with two goals in the last six minutes to draw level on points with the competition leaders with two fixtures remaining. Still well behind on goal difference, Sacred Heart scored 19 goals in the last two games to pass the Pakuranga private school in a thrilling race.
“We knew St Kent's were going to be strong with their attack. This is because they have a strong partnership of Charles Spragg and Max Mata up front. We knew it would be a hard challenge to catch up to their goal tally, but we didn't lose faith and backed ourselves to get the goals we needed. It was a lot of fun having a greater licence to attack all out,” Palmer reflects.
Palmer responds quickly when asked what his favourite goal was.
“I'd have to say my favourite goal was in the last game of the season against Auckland Grammar which won us the league. It meant the most to me as it took us one step closer to winning the league title.”
FIFA Under-17 World Cup tidbits
New Zealand is competing for the eighth time. Their previous wins at the event are against Poland (2-1) in 1999, Uzbekistan (4-1) in 2011 and Paraguay (2-1) in 2015.
Nigeria are the defending champions and the most frequent winners of the event with five titles since 1985. Brazil have played the most matches with 75 and have enjoyed the greatest number of wins 47, scoring a record 166 goals.
An estimated global TV viewership of 200 million is expected in this edition. SONY TEN 2 and SONY TEN 3 are the official broadcasters and they will share its feed in over 185 countries.
14-year-old Freddy Adu scored a hat-trick in the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2013 and followed it up with a hat-trick in FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2007 to become the first footballer to achieve a hat-trick at the World Cups of both age levels.
Brazil’s Ronaldinho is the only player to have won both FIFA U-17 (1997) and FIFA World Cup Finals (2002) title.
Famous Names From the Past: https://www.sportskeeda.com/football/fifa-u-17-world-cup-golden-ball-winners-top-5
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