Surprisingly New Zealand have featured just twice previously at the FIFA U-20 World Cup. The Junior All Whites qualified for Canada 2007 where the team equipped itself well on debut, despite going home without a point after three narrow defeats. Colombia 2011 proved a different proposition and, after two hard-fought 1-1 draws against Cameroon and Uruguay, New Zealand were in the hunt for progression until the final moments of the group stage, before ultimately suffering a 1-0 loss to tournament runners-up Portugal.
Despite recording a perfect record in their four Oceania qualifying matches New Zealand enjoyed unusually varied winning margins in the Fiji-based tournament. The Junior All Whites defeated New Caledonia and Vanuatu by just a single goal. At the other end of the scale they dispatched bottom-side Papua New Guinea 5-0, while a second-half onslaught ended the hopes of a second-placed Fiji with four unanswered goals.
With each passing U-20 generation New Zealand seems to have an increasing number of full-time professional players. The Junior All Whites squad boasted four overseas-based players in their qualifying squad, as well as Louis Fenton and Tyler Boyd of A-League side Wellington Phoenix; the nation’s only professional club. While midfielder Tim Payne - a veteran of three previous FIFA tournaments including London 2012 - was absent in Fiji due to senior team duties. In coach Chris Milicich, the Kiwis have a vastly experienced mentor who also led New Zealand at Colombia 2011 and previously coached Waitakere United at the FIFA Club World Cup.