Men’s U-20s coach Darren Bazeley says Saturday’s FIFA U-20 World Cup opener against the Ukraine is the culmination of lengthy build-up which has his players raring to go.
Bazeley has led the preparation for his side over the past 24 months through both domestic and international programmes and he is glad the kickoff is finally here.
“It’s been over two years waiting for this tournament and it starts tomorrow,” Bazeley said.
“We’re very excited and the players have worked really hard to get ready for this first game.”
VIDEO – Meet the Men’s U-20s – Darren Bazeley
The group are setting out to make history for a New Zealand U-20 side at the tournament as they seek to become the first team to win a game at the event – something Bazeley says will be achieved by an internal focus conducive to earning the treasured result.
“We’re really concentrated on our performance. We’ve got some key things we’re trying to do in and out of possession and we’d also we’d love to start the tournament off with a positive result.
“We’ve got our own style of play and we’ll be making sure that we’re doing what we are good at and what we’ve been training to do.”
Despite the inward attention, Bazeley and his management staff have run the rule over Saturday’s opposition and the New Zealand side are well aware of the size of the task ahead.
“They are a very a good team. They’ll be organised and tactically and technically they’re very good players and they are playing in top leagues in Europe so it’s going to be a big challenge for us.”
Bazeley says a key factor in getting the result the squad want will be in the amount of games the team have played in the lead up, against top international opposition at the tournament including the likes of Honduras, Qatar and Austria in recent weeks.
“We’ve had a lot of internationals in the last month and they’ve been invaluable for us to ensure we’re ready for this game tomorrow. We’ve played so many internationals over the past five or six weeks that, in a way, this has become another game.
“It is a bigger game obviously, it’s the start of a World Cup but right now these players are quite relaxed and we’ve built a routine about how we go into an international match and that was the plan.“
The team will be boosted by a passionate home crowd of over 20,000 with the stadium near sold out for the 1pm kickoff and Bazeley urged the New Zealand support – dressed in white – to carry the team across the line on Saturday.
“The crowd will be a massive, massive bonus for us. We need them to get behind us and support us because we’ll have some tough times during the game tomorrow and hopefully the crowd can be that extra player.”
FIFA U-20 World Cup 2015 – Match 1
Saturday 30 May
New Zealand v Ukraine
North Harbour Stadium, 1pm
New Zealand (from): 1. Oliver Sail (GK), 2. Jesse Edge, 3. Deklan Wynne, 4. Sam Brotherton, 5. Adam Mitchell, 6. Bill Tuiloma (capt), 7. Joel Stevens, 8. Moses Dyer, 9. Alex Rufer, 10. Clayton Lewis, 11. Matthew Ridenton, 12. Nik Tzanev (GK), 13. Brock Messenger, 14. Cory Brown, 15. Monty Patterson, 16. Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi, 17. Andrew Blake, 18. Andre de Jong, 19. Stuart Holthusen, 20. Noah Billingsley, 21. Damian Hirst