The next generation of New Zealand men’s footballers, including WaiBOP United’s Connor Probert (pictured left) and Liam Williams (pictured right), take their first international steps on Tuesday night against Fiji at the Oceania U-17 Men’s Championship in Samoa.
The New Zealand Men’s U-17 side, led by coach Jose Figueira, will play five Group A games at the JS Blatter Football Complex in Apia over the next nine days with the tournament doubling as the qualification event for the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Chile in October.
Chasing their fifth consecutive title in the U-17 event, Figueira and his young charges left Auckland on Saturday and the coach says the team have settled well in their Apia base over the last few days.
“The boys are acclimatising well and we’re fortunate to be in great accommodation and we’ve got no issues at all with the squad off the pitch,” Figueira said.
“We’ve had two training sessions at the venue and everyone is looking fit and raring to go.”
With the entire squad representing their country for the time, Figueira says the tournament and international experience of his staff – which also includes former New Zealand U-17 Women’s coach Paul Temple – has been a major asset.
“We’ve got a great staff alongside me who have been at many tournaments and championships so in terms of preparing [the squad] for what they might expect and what the feeling might be, we’ve got those bases covered.
“There’s only so much preparation you can do when players are making their debut but what I’ve been really happy about is that there seems to be more excitement than nerves among the boys so we’re all ready to go.”
Figueira expects that energy to be channelled into the team’s playing principles against Fiji with the New Zealand side looking to influence proceedings with a positive intent in all moments of the game.
“What I’ve been really pleased about with this group is the aggression they have with and without the ball,” Figueira said.
“We’ll be looking to press aggressively when we haven’t got the ball and have exactly the same approach when we do have it; look to play forward cleverly and create as many opportunities as possible and the players have shown that in two trainings over here in the conditions.”
“We’re preparing every game exactly the same and Fiji historically has been a bit of local derby so to speak and tomorrow won’t be any different. We’re expecting a tough challenge every game and certainly the opening game will be no exception.”
New Zealand match officials Anna Marie Keighley and Nadia Browning are also involved in the tournament.
Tuesday’s match against Fiji kicks off at 6pm (NZ time) and you can follow updates of the action via the New Zealand Football Twitter account @NZ_Football and via Oceania Football www.oceaniafootball.com & @OFCFootball
Oceania Football U-17 Championships 2015
Fiji v New Zealand
Tuesday 13 January, 6pm (NZ time)
J.S. Blatter Football Complex
New Zealand (from): 1. 1. Michael Woud (GK), 2. Jack-Henry Sinclair, 3. Luke Johnson, 4. Billy Jones, 5. Sione Fa’apoi, 6. Liam Williams, 7. Oliver Ceci, 8. Sarpreet Singh, 9. Jack Anderson, 10. Logan Rogerson, 11. Louie Mills, 12. Reuben Clark (GK), 13. Sean Skeens, 14. James McGarry, 15. Connor Probert 16. Jamie Woodlock, 17. Ben Kiore, 18. Daniel Lough, 19. Sam Wilson, 20. Ben Mata
Coach: Jose Figueira
Source: NZ Football.