Young Kiwis inspired for Chile odyssey

The biggest football event ever held in New Zealand football, the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup, created a positive mark across countless facets of the game in the Land of the long white cloud. But at least one legacy remains to be fulfilled in the near future.

New Zealand’s players will attend next month’s FIFA U-17 World Cup in Chile emboldened, after witnessing first-hand the globe’s best young footballers on their doorstep. Equally, they were inspired by the landmark achievements of their U-20 side who reached the knockout stage for the first time, claiming maiden wins in the process.

Key Young All Whites forward Logan Rogerson, like most of his U-17 team-mates, attended matches at New Zealand 2015. And he says thoughts of Chile 2015 - where they will tackle France, Paraguay and Syria - were rarely far from mind. “We (New Zealand U-20) did alright to reach the Round of 16, and then had a close game against Portugal,” Rogerson told FIFA.com. “It just goes to show that if you put in a decent shift, it doesn’t matter who you play, anything can happen. It was an eye-opener for us.”

To say it has been a big month for Rogerson would be a significant understatement. Despite his tender age, Rogerson firstly received an unexpected call-up to the senior national team for their recent international in Myanmar, and then signed his first professional contract with Wellington Phoenix just a few days after returning home. He has also featured with the national U-23 team during July. It is further evidence, if any were needed, that Rogerson is a pivotal cog among New Zealand’s fresh wave of players.

It just goes to show that if you put in a decent shift, it doesn’t matter who you play, anything can happen.

“Not quite,” says a laughing Rogerson, when asked if he has had a chance to digest the events of the past few months. “I haven’t had the chance to slow down and think about what has happened. But it gives me extra motivation with what I’m already doing, and push on even further to where I’m at right now.”

And just how much of an eye-opener was it for a raw-boned 17-year-old to suddenly find himself mixing it with the nation’s elite players? “It was great to be around class players, such as Winston Reid, Marco Rojas, Kosta Barbarouses,” says Rogerson who is half-Maori via his mother. “I learnt a lot from all those guys, on and off the field. I learnt a lot in a lot of areas in fact, even just the pace in which they train at was quite new to me.”

Dreams and inspirations Rogerson was named the player of the tournament during qualifiers earlier this year, scoring a crucial goal in the final as New Zealand were pushed to the limit by Tahiti, before they eventually prevailed on penalties. Rogerson, who invariably dons the No10 shirt playing a secondary role in the forward line, says he likes dribbling at opponents, and has “an eye for goal”. It is little surprise then that Rogerson says he has styled his game as a youngster on fleet-footed All Whites attacker Marco Rojas - arguably the most naturally gifted footballer among New Zealand’s young breed. “We grew up at the same club, and I watched him when I was younger where he was a bit of an inspiration, and I used to try to play like him.”

Having recently spent time in the Wellington Phoenix youth system, Rogerson has been away from many of Young All Whites colleagues who are domiciled together in Auckland. Nevertheless, Rogerson says Chile 2015 is rarely from his thoughts. “I have been in the New Zealand Football system for about three years, and all that time playing at the U-17 World Cup has been a main focus for me,” he said. “It is also a massive shop window for me and the team. And also to be exposed to high quality football for the team (is exiting). But you never know what to expect at an U-17 World Cup.

“I spoke to a few lads in the national team who have played at an U-17 World Cup, and they said it helped them push on further, was an eye-opener about where they needed to be, and generally what they need to do to compete against the rest of the world.”