The Young All Whites ignored the script when winger Michael Built gave them an 18th minute lead but first-half pressure from Costa Rica – and oppressive humidity – caught up with New Zealand when an uncharacteristic defensive lapse allowed Joel Campbell to equalise in the 35th minute.
The draw – New Zealand’s first after a solitary win and eight losses in three previous FIFA U-17 World Cup campaigns – leaves the Steve Cain-coached Young All Whites two points shy of Turkey who lead Group D after a 1-0 win over Burkina Faso.
“I’ve been told it’s the second best result for a New Zealand team at a FIFA U-17 World Cup but to be honest we’re a little disappointed because we’ve set our stall out to score goals and not concede,” Cain said.
“I think we did very well but all in all we should’ve been good enough to keep the lead and we’re very disappointed that we didn’t.”
“We gave the ball away very cheaply just before their goal and it’s a lesson for young players, and let’s not forget these are 16- and 17-year-olds, that you if you give the ball away against quality opposition they’ll punish you.
“Costa Rica are very strong and skilful, but the longer the game went on the more comfortable we looked and if out set piece runs had been better we may have even found a winner.”
The Young All Whites play the Africans on Thursday seeking an upset victory then or next Sunday against Turkey to become the first New Zealand team to reach the second round of a FIFA tournament.
“The Burkina Faso game is a huge one for both of us as they’ve got zero points and we’ve got one.”
“With an afternoon kick off, the heat and humidity will be even tougher and playing an African team in Africa will always be difficult.”
“But we’ve got a good team here and we back ourselves in every game we play.”
From the outset New Zealand were quicker into the match than the Costa Ricans and the first chance came in just the 8th minute when captain Gordon Murie headed a near post chance wide.
An Ashton Pett speculator drifted over the bar minutes later but Built made no mistake when Andrew Milne held up a Josh Morrison throw inside the area long enough for Built to lash it past Costa Rican goalkeeper Mauricio Vargas.
Rosbin Mayorga squandered a close range chance to equalise almost immediately but for the most part New Zealand’s back four of Murie, Adam Thomas, Josh Morrison and Ashton Pett looked calm and composed.
After a bright start in 30 degree heat and 90 per cent humidity, New Zealand sat back on their lead allowing Costa Rica to enjoy more possession.
A mix up between Adam Thomas and Gordon Murie – the only blot on New Zealand’s defensive copybook – allowed the ever-threatening Joel Campbell in to slide the ball past Turipa and level the scores.
Just before halftime a powerful swerving shot from Thomas Spragg drew a the very best out of Vargas to keep it out of the top corner of his goal and the scores locked at halftime.
Refreshed after the break, the Young All Whites pushed forward with more frequency and looked a threat from set pieces.
Midway through the half Cameron Lindsay flicked a Zane Sole free kick just inches out of Milne’s reach at the back post, while a late long range effort from substitute Luis Estevez looked briefly like it might claim all three points for New Zealand.
The young Al Whites lost Spragg and goal scorer Built to cramp in the second half but stood firm amongst a couple of injury time Costa Rican efforts to claim a well-deserved point.
Elsewhere on Monday, Iran shot to the top of Group C with a 2-0 win over Gambia in Calabar while Colombia lie in second place after a 2-1 win over the Netherlands.
The top two in each of six four-team groups are joined in the second round by the four best third-placed teams.
FIFA U-17 World Cup Nigeria 2009
October 25 – November 15
Group D
October 26
New Zealand: 1 (Michael BUILT 18)
Costa Rica: 1 (Joel CAMPBELL 35)
Halftime: 1-1
New Zealand line-up: 1-Coey TURIPA (GK), 3-Adam THOMAS (8-Stephen KIBBY 67), 5- Gordon MURIE (captain), 7-Josh MORRISON, 10-Zane SOLE, 13-Michael BUILT (12-Tane GENT 64), 14-Thomas SPRAGG (4-Luis ESTEVEZ 89), 15-Andrew MILNE, 16-Jamie DORIS, 17-Cameron LINDSAY, 18-Ashton PETT.
Substitutes not used: 2-Matt GIBBONS, 6-Tim PILKINGTON, 9-Nikolai MOLIJN, 19-Andrew BEVIN, 20-Alex CARR (GK), 21-Patrick GEORGE (GK).
Unavailable: 11-Jack Hobson-MCVEIGH (suspended).
Coach: Steve CAIN (ENG)
Costa Rica line-up: 18-Mauricio VARGAS (GK), 5-Pablo MARTINEZ, 6-Jeisson PENA, 8-Juan GOLOBIO, 10-Deyver VEGA (12-Dylan FLORES 64), 11-Joel CAMPBELL (19-Irving HUERTAS 87), 14-Rosbin MAYORGA (7-Danny BLANCO 60), 15-Joseph MORA, 16-Ariel SOTO, 17-Yeltsin TEJEDA, 20-Adrian MORA.
Substitutes not used: 1-Ricardo ROJAS (GK), 2 -Nicholas ARLERS, 3-Josue AGUILAR, 4-Alejandro CALDERON, 9-Jonathan MOYA, 13-Federico CRESPO, 21-Luis RODRIGUEZ (GK).
Coach: Juan Diego QUESADA (CRC)
Cautions: Pablo MARTINEZ (CRC), Yeltsin TEJEDA (CRC), Zane SOLE (NZL), Jeisson PENA (CRC).
Story and photo courtesy NZF Media
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