The unbeaten teenagers dramatically achieved a notable first for New Zealand football teams by reaching the knockout stage of a FIFA event with Jack Hobson-McVeigh’s stunning injury-time strike securing a 1-1 draw against Group D winners Turkey, on Sunday.
But their coach admitted he acted swiftly to extinguish any thoughts from his players that the playoffs were now “bonus territory,” instead demanding that the bar be raised higher.
“I gave them all a real dressing down on Monday because at the end of the day we’re not here to make up the numbers, we’re here to win the tournament,” Cain said.
“No-one is going to sit back on their laurels because we haven’t won anything yet.”
“If we lift the trophy, we’ll say yeah, well done, but for now we are going to into this match with 100 per cent focus aiming to make it into the quarterfinals.”
After three tough group games, all ending in 1-1 draws, and requiring second-half fight backs in the last two matches, a few New Zealand players were understandably showing signs of wear and tear.
Gordon Murie (dead leg), Tim Pilkington (concussion), Thomas Spragg (ankle) all picked up injuries against Turkey while Jamie Doris is the latest player to pick up a 24-hour stomach bug that has so far swept through two-thirds of the camp and is currently in isolation.
Cain was confident each would be fit for selection and could now welcome back Waitakere United midfielder Zane Sole back from a one game suspension.
Sole, Doris, Hobson-McVeigh, Stephen Kibby and Cameron Lindsay have all been used in different combinations within a central midfield trio, and present Cain with his toughest selection choice. Not even the goalscoring hero from Sunday, Hobson-McVeigh was assured of a start against the Golden Eaglets.
“He [Hobson-McVeigh] has certainly done enough to cause me a selection problem. We can’t fit six or seven players into five spots so one or two of them will have to miss out. But they will all have a part to play.”
Patience and pressure will be the key for a New Zealand side that has shown that it has the mental resilience and defensive organisation to stay in games against more fancied opposition.
“If we stay organised and don’t make mistakes, which has been a strength of ours so far, we can frustrate these teams quite significantly.
“With the pressure on Nigeria as the home nation, and the expectation from the crowd of a home win, we can build that frustration and take advantage when they find things aren’t going their way.”
“There’s pressure on us as the underdogs but there’s a lot more of them.”
The match kicks off at 7am on Friday (NZT)
FIFA U-17 World Cup Nigeria 2009
October 25 – November 15
Round of 16
November 6
New Zealand v Nigeria
Kick off: 7am (NZT)
Live coverage on Sky Sport 1
New Zealand (from): 1-Coey TURIPA (GK), 2-Matt GIBBONS, 3-Adam THOMAS, 4-Luis ESTEVEZ, 5- Gordon MURIE (captain), 6-Tim PILKINGTON, 7-Josh MORRISON, 8-Stephen KIBBY, 9-Nikolai MOLIJN, 10-Zane SOLE, 11-Jack Hobson-MCVEIGH, 12-Tane GENT, 13-Michael BUILT, 14-Thomas SPRAGG, 15-Andrew MILNE, 16-Jamie DORIS, 17-Cameron LINDSAY, 18-Ashton PETT,19-Andrew BEVIN, 20-Alex CARR (GK), 21-Patrick GEORGE (GK).
Coach: Steve CAIN (ENG)
Nigeria (from): 1-Dami PAUL (GK), 2-Aigbe OLIHA, 3-Mohammed ALIYU, 4-Ogenyi ONAZI, 5-Fortune CHUKWUDI, 6-Kenneth OMERUO, 7-White AGWUOCHA, 8-Stanley OKORO, 9-Abdul AJAGUN, 10-Olarenwaju KAYODE, 11-Terry ENVOH, 12-Chukwujike MGBAM, 13-Omoh OJABU, 14-Sani EMMANUEL, 15-Yusuf OTUBANJO, 16-Amos IZUCHUKWU (GK), 17-Obinna OKORO, 18-Edafe EGBEDI, 19-Deji JOEL, 20-Ramon AZEEZ, 21-John FELAGHA (GK).
Coach: John OBUH (NGA)
Story courtesy NZF Media