Boxall enjoying new challenge in Minnesota

Portugal's Andre Silva attempts to get past Andrew Durante, left, and Michael Boxall. Photo: FIFA via Getty Images

All Whites defender Michael Boxall is looking forward to a new challenge of playing for Minnesota United in the Major League Soccer (MLS) competition in the United States.

The 28-year-old from Auckland, who played in all three games at the FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia as a right-sided centre back, joins MN United after two successful years with SuperSport United in South Africa.

Boxall spoke to a few of the guys who had worked with the Minnesota United coaching staff and liked their enthusiasm and ideas. It was also an opportunity for his family to feel more comfortable in day to day life.

“I loved my time in South Africa, both on and off the field, but when this opportunity came about I was really excited,” he said. “With a change of scenery and a new challenge, hopefully I can keep developing.”

Boxall has developed into a highly-rated centre half. Since making his debut for the All Whites against China in 2011, he has played 27 internationals for New Zealand and has become one of the first names down on Anthony Hudson’s team sheet. Hudson feels the move will be a good change for Boxall who will play a leading role in the team’s FIFA World Cup qualifying chances.

“Boxy is a leader within our group and this move to Minnesota United will be another positive step in his career, that he thoroughly deserves.” said Hudson.

“We want as many of our players playing first team football for top clubs around the world as possible and I am sure Boxy is going to enjoy playing in the MLS. He has been a great performer for the All Whites in the past few years and he was superb at the FIFA Confederations Cup.”

Michael Boxall brings the ball under control against Fiji. Photo: OFC Media

Boxall said the competition in the MLS from top to bottom is a massive challenge and he is looking forward to testing himself. He said the facilities at MN United and set up of the club is world-class.

“I’m still finding my feet here, I’ve only been here about two weeks and spent half that time in Canada sorting out my visa. So looking forward to settling in properly and getting to know my way around Minneapolis.”

The host of All Whites TV said the overall feeling following the FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia, where they competed well against world class teams without getting any results, was disappointing.

“We still need to be more consistent with our performances, and also start turning positive performances into wins. There were a heap of positives from it, and it was a great experience that we need to take lessons from and make sure we are better for our remaining World Cup qualifying games this year.”

Boxall is enjoying his new environment, but said the All Whites’ OFC Final Stage Qualifier against Solomon Islands in September is in the back of his mind.

“I am buzzing to come back to New Zealand to play,” he said. “I was gutted to be suspended for the last game in Auckland [against New Caledonia] as opportunities to play in front of my friends and family don’t come around too often, so I can’t wait for the next FIFA window.”

The six foot, two inches tall defender said the Solomon Islands will present a tough challenge. He was part of the team that beat them 1-0 in the OFC Nations Cup last year through a last minute Luke Adams goal.  He said the All Whites will be up for the challenge.

New Zealand’s Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi and Solomon Islands’ Benjamin Totori go after the ball. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / www.phototek.nz

“Solomon Islands have become a bit more organised recently and they always have a few live-wire players who can cause a few problems, and particularly the away legs in these games are never easy.”

Boxall said the team knows what is at stake. If they can get past the Solomon Islands, they have a chance to take on the fifth-ranked South American side in the Intercontinental Playoff in November and make history.

After spending time in St Petersburg and Sochi, and mixing with some of the world’s best, there is even more inspiration to get back there for the FIFA World Cup in 2018.

“After getting a taste of Russia, that’s massive motivation to get back there, but we need to take care of business within our Confederation first.”

OFC Final Stage of FIFA World Cup Qualifying
New Zealand vs Solomon Islands
QBE Stadium, Auckland
Friday 1 September
Kick-off: 7.35pm (local time)
Buy Tickets here

Solomon Islands vs New Zealand
Lawson Tama Stadium, Honiara
Tuesday 5 September
Kick-off: 2pm (local time)

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