New Zealand’s record in the FIFA U-20 World Cup is modest, especially in comparison to that at U-17 level. The Class of 2015 will, however, have a unique opportunity on home soil to improve on a record of two draws and seven defeats over their nine matches in the competition. The Junior All Whites made their first appearance at Canada 2007, in the wake of Australia’s move to the Asian Football Confederation. The team equipped itself relatively 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 to advance to the knockout stage until the final moments of the group stage, before ultimately suffering a 1-0 loss to tournament runners-up Portugal. Turkey 2013 proved a sharp learning curve on the world stage with group-stage defeats against Croatia, Uruguay and Uzbekistan.
As hosts New Zealand did not have the benefit of a qualifying campaign which, at this level, is normally a valuable source of international experience. However coach Darren Bazeley has put together a thorough and diverse preparatory schedule with the team’s international outings commencing in earnest in May 2014. The Junior All Whites began accruing impressive results from the outset including a draw against Brazil; a first for any New Zealand side in men’s football.
New Zealand seem to have an increasing number of full-time professional players with each passing U-20 generation. The Junior All Whites squad also boasts several overseas-based players, as well as a handful that have featured with A-League side Wellington Phoenix; the nation’s only professional club. This squad, perhaps more so ever before, also includes a number of players that have already represented the senior national team including Bill Tuiloma, Matthew Ridenton and Alex Rufer.
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