The New Zealand U-17 men have learned their path at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Brazil.
The José Figueira coached team will take on the hosts Brazil, Canada and Angola in the tournament that will be staged from 26 October to 17 November.
Figueira, who guided the team to victory last year when they defeated the Solomon Islands in a penalty shootout of the OFC U-16 Championship, said it is a tough and exciting draw.
“It is good to know now what our journey is going to look like as we get ready for the World Cup,” said Figueira. “Our preparation so far has all been about ourselves, and our identity, but now we know who we are going to face, we can start to ramp up our preparation for these teams. It is a really exciting group. It is great to be part of the hosts' group. The experience will be fantastic and something our boys can be use as an energiser.”
Brazil, who made the semi-finals of the event in 2017 before losing to eventual winners England, and Canada shape as two of the tougher challenges for New Zealand, with Angola, who are making their debut in the event, an unknown.
“Playing any team on their home soil is tough, but playing Brazil in Brazil will be something very special. The atmosphere and everything that comes along with a game like that will be great. Canada have come through a tough CONCACAF qualification process with the USA and Mexico so it will be an exciting group and a big challenge for us. We are more than capable of giving it a really good crack.”
The New Zealand U-17 men competed in the Panda Cup in China in May where they played China, Korea Republic and Thailand U-18 teams, and Figueira feels that experience will help them in Brazil.
“That experience will be massive for us. We said to the team over there that we wanted to replicate a group stage with those games. We picked up one win and were unfortunate to not get something from the last game [against Thailand] against older oppositions. If we perform like that, and better in Brazil, we have a good chance of getting out of the group.”
New Zealand age group teams have impressed on the world stage in recent time. The NZ U-17 women finished third at the FIFA U-17 World Cup last year in Uruguay, and the NZ U-20 men qualified for the Round of 16 of the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Poland this year where they lost on penalties to Colombia.
“When we were over in China we drew on both the experiences of the men and the women. The guys are really excited about it. There is a real wave of positive support in New Zealand and internationally. It will be a fantastic occasion for the boys to be part of that and hopefully add to it as well.”
New Zealand have qualified for the Round of 16 of the FIFA U-17 World Cup on three occasions, in 2009, 2011 and 2015. In the most recent tournament two years ago, they competed well with Paraguay, Mali and Turkey but did not advance from their group.
FIFA U-17 World CupWhere: BrazilWhen: 26 October – 17 November
FIFA U-17 World Cup Draw
New Zealand fixtures (local time, kick-off times to be confirmed)
26 October New Zealand v Angola, Estádio Bezerrão, Gama29 October Brazil v New Zealand, Estádio Bezerrão, Gama1 November Canada v New Zealand, Estádio Bezerrão, Gama
Article added: Friday 12 July 2019