Birthday boy looks to bounce back

The best players in the world are the first to admit that defeat hurts. But when you're 15 and playing in your first FIFA finals it must feel like the end of the world. On Saturday evening, New Zealand midfielder Cory Chettleburgh had to face just that, but worse still, his side shipped seven goals without reply.

However, the industrious midfielder from the Palmerstone North Marist club produced one of the highlights of the match, when his speculative 25-yard effort left Marcelo stranded. Unfortunately for Chettleburgh, his effort cannoned off the crossbar.

Yet when caught up with the All White, they found him in defiant mood.

"I just hope that in the years to come that we can look back at the Brazil game and say that we learnt lessons from it," he said. "We are obviously gaining a lot of experience from playing the best teams in the world. We want to become a better side.

"Saturday was one of those games, where aside from a couple of good saves from Jake (Gleeson), nothing seemed to go right for us - even from the ninth second. It was so disappointing for us, particularly as it was our first match at a World Cup. To concede seven goals, see a penalty missed and a shot hit the crossbar was sickening. But if we played them again today, I don't think they'd beat us 7-0."

One might expect some teams to suffer a crisis of confidence after that scoreline, but not the Kiwis, who have more than enough motivation to keep their heads held high.

"We're determined to beat England," continued Chettleburgh. "We've got the Brazil game out of heads now, we've done a lot of work as a team and now we want to set the record straight. Maybe they'll go into the game underestimating us. I mean, after getting beaten 7-0 in our first game, they won't exactly be nervous of the prospect of meeting us. But we are capable of pulling off an upset.

"We want to do it for the country, we want to do it for our coach, we want to do it for our families and we want to do it for ourselves. We know that we're not one of the world's strongest footballing countries, but we have the motivation. We've learnt lessons from the England game - we're going to be a lot tighter in defence, stick to our man and show better concentration."

Chettleburgh and his team-mates have been spending a lot of time as a squad over the past few days, working hard in training under the guidance of a determined Colin Tuaa, as well as a series of group activities designed to lift morale and make an already close-knit squad even more together.

On Monday night, the team took part in a specially arranged quiz, hosted by team doctor Kevin Bell. Chettleburgh was put in the spotlight once again, in a special one-on-one round, which he emerged as the victor. And for the talented teenager, Monday sees another reason to celebrate - he turns 16. But he insists that the party is on hold, unless the team pull off a memorable victory over England.

"I'm not really thinking about it - I'm just focused on the next game," he smiled.

"But it should be a good day for me whole family's out here: my mum, dad, brother and sister. So, I'll be able to see them on my birthday and hopefully, celebrate the three points too. It's going to be a little bit strange to be away from home on my birthday, but I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. I'm with my family and my team-mates - and that's great."

Incidentally, the winning team in the New Zealand quiz was called 'Pity the Poms'. Could this be a prophetic omen which may allow Cory and the boys to party on Monday?