JEJU – New Zealand could be excused for being quietly petrified heading into their FIFA U-17 Men’s World Cup opener against Brazil on Saturday.

Quite aside from the fact that the `Selecao’ are hot favorites to win their fourth U-17 title in a decade (the tournament is held biennially), a crowd of 30,000 is expected at Jeju’s FIFA World Cup
Stadium for the 5pm kickoff (8pm NZT, live Sky Sport 3).

A good portion of them will be drawn through the turnstiles for a glimpse of the latest Brazilian superstar in waiting, gifted Corinthians playmaker Lulinha who scored 12 goals when the Selecao won
their eighth South American title in 12 starts in Ecuador in March.

But New Zealand’s road to the World Cup has been full of challenges arguably more difficult that trying to subdue a player who is mentioned in the same breath as Ronaldinho.

Defender Isaac Fitzgerald is in the midst of a gruelling schedule of chemotherapy after having a 2.2kg tumor, and his kidney, removed in June shortly after returning from a warm-up tournament on
Korea. Lance Heslop’s World Cup dream – and his jaw – were shattered at the same tournament while New Zealand were literally rattled by a deadly earthquake in Niigata last month just as they were
receiving a pre-game prep-talk.

Story courtesy of NZF Media Officer Kent Gray…

NZ Ready To Samba With Brazil At World Cup