The road to New Zealand
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.
Strengths and style
While the Junior All Whites boast traditional traits associated with New Zealand national teams, the current crop of players has provided yet more evidence of the nation’s growing production line of creative, x-factor players. New Zealand seem to possess an increasing number of full-time professional players with each passing U-20 generation. The Junior All Whites also boast 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.
English-born coach Darren Bazeley enjoyed a lengthy career as a fullback for Watford, Wolverhampton and Walsall, as well as a brief appearance for England U-21s. He moved to New Zealand for the first A-League season in 2005, before retiring two years later. He assumed the reins of the New Zealand U-20 national team in 2013, having served as head coach at that year’s FIFA U-17 World Cup, in addition to being assistant at two earlier U-17 World Cups.
FIFA U-20 World Cup record
- New Zealand have appeared in just three FIFA U-20 World Cups.
- The Class of 2015 will be looking to use home ground advantage 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.
What they said
“It (New Zealand 2015) is an opportunity to showcase New Zealand football and the talented players that we have. We need to make sure that the players in the team do well for themselves, and for the country. It is a great opportunity for all of us.”
Darren Bazeley, New Zealand coach