The FIFA U-17 World Cup may be seen as the shop window for aspiring footballers but the 21-man New Zealand squad named on Tuesday for the Nigeria-hosted tournament in October and November already boasts a trio of players based in British academies.
Cameron Lindsay (Blackburn Rovers) and Andrew Milne (Glasgow Rangers) are into their second year of apprenticeships, but they have been joined by midfielder Jamie Doris who was recently signed by the academy of Scottish Premier League club Hibernian.
The Young All Whites face Costa Rica, Burkina Faso and Turkey in Group D of the 24-nation tournament in the south-eastern Nigerian City of Enugu and while the goal of reaching the second round – something yet to be achieved by a New Zealand team at a FIFA event – is front of mind, New Zealand coach Steve Cain says the role of the U-17s in growing future All Whites is one he takes seriously.
“With Jamie Doris going through the New Zealand Football pathway to get himself an academy place, and Michael Built joining Northampton Town next month, that’s four and that what we’re aiming for long term,” Cain said.
“This is a real avenue for our boys to go through professional football and there’ll be others who’ll we’ll try to place with stronger American universities, which is another pathway for our players.”
“If we get this right then we will have better full internationals on our hands. All going well, these lads will progress from the U-17s to the U-20s and straight to the U23s in some cases, and on to the All Whites from there.
While that quartet may have the jump on becoming the next Chris Wood or Costa Barbarouses – graduates from the Young All Whites class of 2007 who have on to play first professional football for West Bromwich Albion and Wellington Phoenix respectively, and make their senior international debuts – Cain believes more could follow in their boot marks.
“You never know do you? We’ve already got of one this squad at an English Premier League club and two in the SPL but there’s plenty of talent left to be looked at if they step up and do it on this stage.
“The FIFA U-17 World Cup is the biggest shop window in world football, and it’s as big an opportunity as these young players will get, both individually and as a team.”
Ellerslie striker Nikolai Molijn makes a return to the squad after missing May’s Oceania qualifiers through injury, while Hamilton pair Matthew Gibbons and Luis Esteves have forced their way into the frame along with goalkeeper Patrick George and Auckland-based Arrowtown-native Tane Gent. Birkenhead defender Gordon Murie captains the side.
The squad will travel to Africa via Australia where two warm up matches are scheduled against regional representative sides.
The prospect of a pre-tournament friendly is also been investigated and Cain is confident of being ready to tackle Costa Rica on October 25.
“I don’t think we need to be frightened of anyone. We need to be aware of what we need to do to cause an upset over the teams we face but we certainly won’t go in there overawed.”
New Zealand Squad for FIFA U-17 World Cup, Nigeria (October 24-November 15)
1-Coey TURIPA (Nelson Suburbs), 20-Alex CARR (Central United), 21-Patrick GEORGE (Ellerslie),
2-Matthew GIBBONS (Hamilton Wanderers), 3-Adam THOMAS (Central United), 4-Luis ESTEVES (Hamilton Wanderers), 5-Gordon MURIE (Captain/ Birkenhead), 7-Josh MORRISON (Central United), 12-Tane GENT (Central United), 18-Ashton PETT (Bay Olympic)
8-Stephen KIBBY (Auckland Grammar School), 10-Zane SOLE (Central United), 11-Jack HOBSON-MCVEIGH (Birkenhead), 13-Michael BUILT (Hamilton Wanderers), 14-Thomas SPRAGG (Central United), 16-Jamie DORIS (Hibernian, Scotland), 17-Cameron LINDSAY (Blackburn Rovers, England)
6-Tim PILKINGTON (East Coast Bays), 9-Nicolai MOLIJN (Ellerslie), 15-Andrew MILNE (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland), 19-Andrew BEVIN (Napier City Rovers)
Steve CAIN (Head Coach), Aaron McFARLAND (Assistant Coach), George SMITH (GK Coach), Dale WEBSTER (Team Manager), Adam CRUMP(Physiotherapist), Mark FULCHER (Doctor), Andrew FOSKETT (Sports Scientist)
Young All Whites FIFA U-17 World Cup Schedule – Group D, Enugu
October 25 – New Zealand v Costa Rica
October 28 – New Zealand v Burkina Faso
October 31 – New Zealand v Turkey
Story courtesy of NZF Media
For the latest in NZ Football news visit www.nzfootball.co.nz