New Zealand U-17 coach Danny Hay has delivered a clear message to his squad ahead of the FIFA U-17 World Cup in India.
The former All Whites captain has told his 21-man squad in their first selection for a FIFA World Cup that this is the start of their international careers and they need to earn the right to play for New Zealand.
“This group has done that and I have been impressed by the squad’s character both in our qualifiers and in our training camps as we build towards this tournament,” he said.
Selecting this FIFA World Cup squad has been a two-year process for Hay and his assistant coaches former All Whites Chris Zorocich and Jason Batty. They believe they have named a squad with plenty of character and quality.
“The message is clear to all of these young lads; playing for New Zealand is not a right, it is a privilege. It is something you have to earn and work hard for,” he said.
“The U-17s are the first cab off the rank in international football so this group of players is very excited about going to a World Cup and seeing what they can do. We have a very balanced squad. We have good players right across the park and more so than other age group teams we have some real quality going forward.”
Hay has been happy with his team’s build-up for the tournament which has included a short training camp for fitness and conditioning testing in Auckland and a warm-up match against Auckland City FC which they won 4-1.
Three of the standout performers of the OFC U-17 Championship in Tahiti were Charles Spragg (Golden Boot), Zac Jones (golden glove) and exciting midfielder Elijah Just.
“Charles has really developed in recent time and had a fine qualifying tournament,” Hay said.
“He will be in good competition for a starting place as we have good depth in our forwards with the likes of Max Mata and Matt Conroy. As a former central defender, Charles is the sort of player I used to hate marking. He has great work ethic and he goes all day and that is exactly what we want from him.
“Eli is an exciting young kid who has spent some time training with the All Whites squad recently. He is a product of Declan Edge’s Ole Football Academy and he has done a good job with him. He has a big future.”
The New Zealand U-17s will look to replicate the feats of New Zealand at the tournament two years ago in Chile where they defeated Parauguay 2-1 in their final game to make the Round of 16. They lost in the playoff stages to Brazil (1-0) but showed huge promise on the world stage.
New Zealand U-17 Squad to contest the FIFA U-17 World Cup
Leon Van Den Hoven
Story courtesy of New Zealand Football