The New Zealand Men’s U-17s are set to begin their seventh FIFA U-17 World Cup campaign on Tuesday (NZ time) with their Group F opener against France in Chile.
Playing at the Estadio Chinquihue in Puerto Montt, the New Zealand team, led by coach Danny Hay, will also face Syria and Paraguay in the first phase of the tournament.
Having been in Chile for almost two weeks, warm-up games against Mexico and South Africa produced respective 5-1 and 1-0 defeats with a shadow tournament starting side used for the second match against the African side.
Hay says the team have benefitted greatly from that preparation both on and off the field.
“We’ve had 12 days over here in Chile and we’ve had a couple of very good practise matches under our belt against Mexico and South Africa.
“For the boys that was the first time they’ve faced that sort of standard. I think it’s shown them the sort of level they need to be stepping up to in the first game against France tomorrow.”
Hay said with their opening match now less than 24 hours away, the group are itching to test themselves against one of the heavyweights in world football.
“The players and the staff are all super excited. We’ve got to a place where we are really comfortable with where we are at and where we’re going.
“We understand that France are a world class side and destroyed the European competition over there and comprehensively beat Germany in the final. You’ve got quality of players that are sitting on the bench for Arsenal’s first team.
“We know it’s going to be very, very tough but that’s the beauty of football. We think we’re prepared and well organised and on the day you never know what will happen.”
The New Zealand coach, who played 31 times for the All Whites, says the key to a good performance in their Group F opener is in the mental application shown by the players.
“For me the big thing for our boys is can they concentrate for a full 90 minutes against a side of this quality,” Hay said.
“We know if they switch off for a second they will get punished, such is the quality of the players we’re playing against.
“We’re going to be as aggressive as we possibly can and try and press high as team and be very positive in what we do. We’ll try to maintain possession better than some New Zealand teams have in the past. But we’re under no illusions as to exactly how difficult that is. It’s one thing wanting to do that but having the ability is something else.
“It’s going to be a real eye-opener for our boys tomorrow but we’re certainly not frightened by it, we’re excited by it. We’re going to be as positive and aggressive as we can in taking the game to them.”
All three of New Zealand’s pool matches and all of the games from the quarter-finals onwards will be shown LIVE on SKY Sport 3.
FIFA U-17 World Cup – Group F
Puerto Montt, Chile
New Zealand v France
Monday 19 October, 5pm (Tuesday 20 October, 9am – NZ time)
LIVE on SKY Sport 3
New Zealand (from): 1. Michael Woud (GK), 2. Jack-Henry Sinclair, 3. Liam Jones, 4. Oliver Ceci, 5. Liam Williams, 6. Ben Mata, 7. Sarpreet Singh, 8. Dane Schnell, 9. Connor Probert, 10. Logan Rogerson, 11. James McGarry, 12. Reuben Clark (GK), 13. Joe Bell, 14. Owen Parker-Price, 15. Luke Johnson, 16. Hunter Ashworth, 17. Callum McCowatt, 18. Ahmad Mohammadi, 19. Sean Skeens, 20. Lucas Imrie, 21. Christian Woodbridge (GK)
Coach: Danny Hay
College Sport Media is dedicated to telling the story of successful young sportspeople in New Zealand