Costa Rica is first up for the Steve Cain-coached teenagers, with Burkina Faso and Turkey to follow on Thursday and Sunday morning respectively.
The absence of traditional heavyweights in New Zealand’s group has raised hopes of a breakthrough second round appearance, but even so Cain admits his side are still comfortable with the underdog tag.
“If you look at the other groups there’s real heavyweights up against each other, in fact there’s three in every group except ours,” Cain said.
“We’ll be seen by the other teams as the easy-beats in our group and that’s fair enough, that’s the way we want it.”
The 24 qualified teams are divided into six pools of four, with the top two teams from each group joined in the knockout stage by the four best third placed teams.
An upset over one of New Zealand’s group mates will be needed – something only achieved once in three previous New Zealand U-17 men’s World Cup campaigns – with a draw adding extra security to a playoff push.
“Four points will be enough for a best third-place finish. You may even find three points will do if you have a good goal difference but four points will all-but guarantee it.”
“I do think it’s a realistic aim for us and if we get one win we’re in the market for a second round spot.”
However, in a tournament where teams from Africa, Asia and North America have enjoyed as much, if not more, success than those from football’s traditional powerbases in South America and Europe, the Young All Whites know to expect the unexpected.
“The teams we face probably won’t get the respect they deserve from people looking at the draw but at age-group level some of the smaller nations, especially teams from Africa, tend to be just as good as teams like Brazil, Argentina, and Spain.”
Cain says Costa Rica are no exception, but that the Young All Whites have a quiet confidence of footing it on the big stage.
“Costa Rica are the up-and-coming nation in CONCACAF [North and Central America] and they are reaping the benefits of programs that have been in place for a while now.”
“Their U-20s got pipped by Brazil in the semi-finals of their World Cup recently and like any Central American team they’ll be a side full of strong, skilful and street-smart players.
“We’ve watched the DVDs of their qualifying and they are a very good side, but do we back ourselves? Of course we do. It’ll be a fantastic game.”
New Zealand v Costa Rica
October 26
New Zealand: 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)
Costa Rica: 1-Ricardo ROJAS (GK), 2 -Nicholas ARLERS, 3-Josue AGUILAR, 4-Alejandro CALDERON, 5-Pablo MARTINEZ, 6-Jeisson PENA, 7-Danny BLANCO, 8-Juan GOLOBIO, 9-Jonathan MOYA, 10-Deyver VEGA, 11-Joel CAMPBELL, 12-Dylan FLORES, 13-Federico CRESPO, 14-Rosbin MAYORGA, 15-Joseph MORA, 16-Ariel SOTO, 17-Yeltsin TEJEDA, 18-Mauricio VARGAS (GK), 19-Irving HUERTAS, 20-Adrian MORA, 21-Luis RODRIGUEZ (GK).
Coach: Juan Diego QUESADA (CRC)
FIFA U-17 World Cup Nigeria 2009
October 25 – November 15
October 26
New Zealand v Costa Rica
October 29
New Zealand v Burkina Faso
November 1
New Zealand v Turkey
FIFA U-17 World Cup Past Winners
Edition – Winner
China 1985 – Nigeria
Canada 1987 – Soviet Union
Scotland 1989 – Saudi Arabia
Italy 1991 – Ghana
Japan 1993 – Nigeria
Ecuador 1995 – Ghana
Egypt 1997* – Brazil
New Zealand 1999* – Brazil
Trinidad & Tobago 2001 – France
Finland 2003 – Brazil
Peru 2005 – Mexico
Korea 2007* – Nigeria
Story courtesy NZF Media