Tuaa: The game of our lives
© FIFA.com

Bathed in the Jeju sunshine, New Zealand U-17 coach Colin Tuaa looks like a man completely at peace with the world around him. You would hardly expect that in a few short hours his team take on the mighty Brazil in their opening game at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Korea 2007.

Tuaa and his troops have been drawn to face Brazil, England and Korea DPR in this summer's event, with the coach eagerly anticipating Saturday's encounter against the south Americans.

Twelve months ago, New Zealand Head Coach Ricki Herbert told FIFA.com that the All Whites game against Brazil in 2006 was the highlight of his coaching career to date and now Tuaa can appreciate just what was going through his colleague's mind.

"I know exactly what he meant," smiled Tuaa. "On a personal level, I can't wait. To play Brazil at any level is a wonderful occasion for any coach or player and we're excited about this challenge.

"It's going to be tough but it's about focusing on us, not them; thinking about the great football we've played over the last year and trying to play our game rather than worrying about what Brazil are trying to do."

"For young boys of 16 and 17 to play at a World Cup, it's incredible. Some of the greatest players in the world have never played at a tournament like this - and they fully appreciate the chance they have been given."

Yet behind Tuaa's enthusiasm lies a serious message. With the country targeting a place at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, he realises that this group of players need to be seen to be making a step up in order to help satisfy the aims of New Zealand Football.

Indeed, good results in Asia could help give football a major fillip in the country. The team's games will be shown on prime-time television and good results could inspire a fresh wave of enthusiasm for the beautiful game.

"This tournament is crucial for the continual progression of football in New Zealand," he continued.

"Our players have had good preparation over the past year and we need to start developing our own style. We need to show the public back home that we can compete against the best sides in the world.

"I want them to show the world that we have a team who has the potential to reach the World Cup finals. We are in a very tough group, but when you go to a World Cup, you need to believe that you can get results - and we believe that we can.

"The players know the level they need to get to. For us, the players are not full-time like a lot of the other squads. We just need to close the gap in other ways - and attitude is going to be a big part of that."