The Young All Whites have been pooled with Fiji, American Samoa, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu in Group A of the 10-team FIFA World Cup qualifiers beginning on January 8, with the winner of the pool facing the top team from Group B, made up of Tahiti, Cook Islands, New Caledonia, Solomon Islands and Tonga.
The winner of the January 19 final will represent Oceania at the 2011 FIFA U-17 World Cup held in Mexico in June and July.
With little margin for error, Cain has opted for players who can break down Pacific teams increasingly well-drilled on defence.
“If anything, we’ve gone with an overload of attacking players,” Cain says.
“We’ve got some very talented and pacey players in this squad. We hope to go at teams and we know we’ll be up against some pretty solid and well-organised opponents. We’re looking to impose our game on them.
“We’re at home so we’re going to look to make things happen when we’ve got the ball.”
In the 2009 edition, New Zealand posted 2-0 wins over Tahiti and New Caledonia and a 3-0 victory over Vanuatu in qualifying before reaching the knockout stages of the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Nigeria.
Cain says that if qualification is secured the balance of his squad may have a different look to it for the finals.
“If we’d been going to a World Cup we’d need to be more conservative and more balanced between attack and defensive-minded players.
“It’s a difficult choice because we are not taking anything for granted – we know how strong some of the teams are going to be but we have to back ourselves, especially at home and with the type of players we’ve got.
“We’re trying to be as positive as possible but bearing in mind there are no gimmes in this world anymore.”
The majority of the squad have been with ASB Youth League sides this season and a few have been listed in ASB Premiership squads. Waitakere United’s Tim Payne, who made his debut for Auckland City late last season, has already featured in the top league and the tender age of 16.
The New Zealand coaching staff had interest from players with Kiwi ties in Australia, USA, Taiwan and Europe but the group chosen are all New Zealand-based.
“It’s a reflection of how well we did last time and of course how well the All Whites did in South Africa. The attention we’re getting worldwide has ramped up quite significantly.”
Cain has identified Vanuatu, who sent an U-15 side to the U-17 qualifiers two years ago, Fiji and Papua New Guinea as the main threats to New Zealand in the group stage.
Story and photo courtesy of NZ Football.
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