Get on board!
That’s got to be the message for Kiwi football fans as we seem to be entering an unprecedented era on the international stage.
This morning, our Under 20 men’s team comprehensively beat a good Norway side 2-0 at the U20 World Cup in Poland. That came just three days after thumping Honduras 5-0. They’ve already guaranteed a knockout spot with a group game against Uruguay still to play!
Just a few months ago, our U17 Football Ferns stunned the world (and possibly even themselves) in reaching the semifinals of the U17 Women’s World Cup. The youngsters beat Finland, Uruguay, Japan, and Canada to grab our country’s first ever podium spot in a FIFA tournament.
And of course, our senior Football Ferns side is only a fortnight away from the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France where expectations will be higher than ever before.
Gianni Stensness’ thunderbolt from distance against Norway will no doubt end up being one of the goals of the tournament. But what was most encouraging about the team’s performance was the style and attitude from our U20s throughout the match.
They bossed periods of the match, managed 16 shots on goal (to Norway’s 6) and hit 5 on target (Norway: just 1). Norway even conceded 50% more fouls than NZ. We’re not used to this!
Make no mistake, Norway aren’t exactly pushovers – they defeated defending champions England to clinch a spot in the finals.
Gone are the days of Kiwi footballs fans being content to see their team park the bus and hope for a lucky goal from a set-piece (someone should have told Andreas and saved us all the hassle).
Now we have players like Stensness, Waine, Cacace, et al not simply trying to desperately retain a contract at a club like the Phoenix – instead, they’re now genuinely putting themselves in the shop window for dream moves overseas.
The men’s U20 squad contains a fascinating mix of youngsters with the bulk of the squad coming from the Wellington Phoenix and Ole academy setups. Unsurprisingly there’s a bit of a pissing contest emerging in terms of claiming credit for talent. But there’s no doubt that some credit has to go to U20 coach Des Buckingham who has made it clear that regardless of the pathway they’ve taken to get there, the squad are all in it together – and there’s no denying that’s the case after watching them in action.
Younger kids now have seriously talented players only a few years older as genuine role models. This is going to create a snowball effect. I’ve already seen it with local girls wanting to emulate the likes of Anna Leat and Grace Wisnewski. Now youngsters can aim to be the next Singh, Just, or Elliot instead of Pogba, Messi, or Sterling.
With our U20 men guaranteed to reach the knockout stages, and our Ferns about to kick off their hugely anticipated tournament – it’s the perfect time for the country to get in behind our nation’s best footballers doing their thing on the world stage. I don’t care if the kickoff times aren’t very friendly for us Antipodeans – pop the following dates/times into your diary, tell everyone you know, and don’t miss out – get on board!
Men’s U20 World Cup:
New Zealand vs Uruguay
4am NZT, Friday 31st May
Women’s World Cup:
New Zealand vs Netherlands
1am NZT, Wednesday 12th June
New Zealand vs Canada
7am NZT, Sunday 16th June
New Zealand vs Cameroon
4am NZT, Friday 21st June
Categories: All Whites