New Zealand U-17 coach Danny Hay is excited by the challenge of his team’s draw for the FIFA U-17 World Cup in India.
The OFC Champions, who claimed the title earlier this year with an emphatic 7-0 win over New Caledonia in Tahiti, have been drawn in Group B alongside Paraguay, Mali and Turkey.
The Official Draw for the FIFA U-17 World Cup, which will be played in six venues across India between 6 and 28 October 2017, took place in Mumbai on Friday.
“It is going to be tough, I am not going to lie,” said Hay. “You only need to look at European qualifying, South American qualifying and the African qualifying to recognise that we have three very good teams here. Mali didn’t lose at all, Paraguay in South America only lost once from 12 games and the Turks only lost to England and Spain who were the two top teams. It is going to be difficult but a good challenge.”
Hay, who played 31 internationals for New Zealand during his All Whites career, was in Mumbai for the draw and said there was a real sense of excitement about hosting a FIFA World Cup.
“It was excellent. The infrastructure, the training grounds and the stadiums are all outstanding. India have really got in behind the tournament and they have hopes of hosting the U-20 World Cup so they are trying to impress FIFA and they are doing all of the right things. It is going to be a great experience for our young men.”
New Zealand will take some confidence from their performance at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Chile two years ago. In that tournament they defeated Paraguay 2-1 in their final group game to advance to the Round of 16.
Listen to audio from an interview with NZ U-17 coach Danny Hay on his team’s draw for the FIFA U-17 World Cup in India
They competed well with one of the tournament favourites Brazil and were only beaten 1-0 by a Luís Henrique penalty in injury time.
“That was one thing we thought about when we drew Paraguay again and speaking to their coach [Gerardo Gonzalez Aquino] they are definitely out for a bit of revenge. They don’t want to allow that to happen again so it will be a great challenge.”
Hay said the goal was to continue the good success of New Zealand teams at age grade level after Darren Bazeley’s team advanced to the Round of 16 for the first time away from home at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in South Korea.
The FIFA U-17 World Cup draw revealed that hosts India will take on USA in their opening match of the competition in New Delhi. Group A also includes Colombia and Ghana, who will also clash as part of the first day’s action.
New Zealand will open their campaign on 6 October against Turkey in Mumbai and then face Paraguay three days later (also in Mumbai), before they play their final pool game against Mali on 12 October in New Delhi.
Hay and his coaching staff will assemble in Auckland next week for a training camp at St Kentigern’s College. He admitted it is going to be a tough squad to select with huge competition for places.
“These guys have the chance to go to a World Cup. These sorts of opportunities are few and far between for young New Zealand players. We don’t get to experience true international football and playing against world-class opposition too often and we have a group of top young men who are outstanding characters so we are looking forward to getting them up there to see what they can achieve.”
FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017 Draw
Group A: India, USA, Colombia, Ghana
Group B: Paraguay, Mali, New Zealand, Turkey
Group C: Iran, Guinea, Germany, Costa Rica
Group D: Korea DPR, Niger, Brazil, Spain
Group E: Honduras, Japan, New Caledonia, France
Group F: Iraq, Mexico, Chile, England
New Zealand’s Group B games at the FIFA U-17 World Cup India
Friday 6 October, kick off 5:30pm local time (Saturday 7 October 1am NZT)
Dr DY Patil Stadium, Mumbai
Monday 9 October, kick off 8pm local time (Tuesday 10 October 3:30am NZT)
Dr DY Patil Stadium, Mumbai
Thursday 12 October, kick off 5pm local time (Friday 13 October 12:30am NZT)
Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, New Delhi
All games live on SKY Sport NZ