The opening day of action in Group C spelt disappointment for
both Gambia and New Zealand. Despite obvious desire and some
flashes of inspiration, the two outsiders came away with nothing,
having found their determined efforts insufficient against
high-class opposition. For Gambia, that meant a heavy 3-0 loss to
Mexico, while New Zealand suffered a 2-0 defeat at the hands of
Portugal. But those scorelines only tell half the story. The Kiwis
long frustrated the team many see as serious contenders for the
global crown before a free-kick from Bruno Gama finally changed the
face of the encounter. For their part, Gambia created a number of
good chances against Mexico but failed to put them away.
New Zealand v Gambia, Toronto, 17:00 (local time)
The situation is simple for both teams. Gambia and New Zealand lie bottom of Group D with zero points. Should they fail to displace Mexico and Portugal at the top of the standings, with four of the best third-placed teams still going through to the Round of 16, three points here could prove invaluable. That means both the Gambians and New Zealanders will have to work on their finishing, although few will be surprised if Gambia, who often looked dangerous against Mexico, have better luck turning chances into goals. Whatever happens, the game ought to be a pulsating affair as the two sides love to apply pressure all over the pitch.
Both coaches can call upon full squads, but if New Zealand's Michael Boxall, Ian Hogg, Craig Henderson or Phil Edginton pick up a yellow card they will miss the Mexico match through suspension. Algie Ngum is the only player in a similar situation for Gambia.
This is the only game in the group stage between two FIFA U-20 World Cup debutants. New Zealand and Gambia have never met at this level.
"We have every reason to be optimistic after our game against Portugal. We played well and created some good chances towards the end, even if we didn't put them away. We're here to build experience." Stu Jacobs, New Zealand coach.
"We'll learn from our mistakes and come back stronger
against New Zealand. I'm fairly satisfied with how we played in
the first half. It's just a shame we couldn't score."
Peter Bonu Jonson, Gambia coach.
"We showed we totally deserve our place at this World Cup. We'll have to learn the lessons from this match and try to use this experience as best we can in our next outings." Dan Keat, New Zealand captain.