Birkenhead United Players named in U-17 World Cup qualifiers squad

The players who will look to fire New Zealand to the 2019 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Peru have been revealed after the official naming of the squad to compete at the OFC U-16 Championship this month.

Two Birkenhead United players have been selected; Luca Taylor & Nathan Lobo.

The tournament is set to take place in the Solomon Islands from September 9 to 22 and 20 players have been named by coach Jose Figueira, who is joined in leading the team by assistant Sam Wilkinson and goalkeeping coach Chris Marsh.

Two World Cup places are available via Oceania qualifying so the first task for Figueira and co will be to book their tickets to Peru, before going on to defend their regional title by lifting the trophy.

Figueira is impressed with the level of talent available to him and says making his final selections was a difficult but welcome task.

“It’s been a good headache to have,” he says.

“The talent in this age group and the experience some of them already have at high senior levels is really exciting for New Zealand moving forward. We’re finding the majority of these players are either in or moving towards fulltime football environments and we’ve had the odd couple of players who even got some national league experience last year so things sit in a really positive place.”

u-17-squad

The U-16 group will look to follow in the footsteps of their older counterparts, who have just qualified for the FIFA U-20 World Cup after winning the OFC U-19 Championship in Tahiti. The path to glory in French Polynesia was far from straightforward though and Figueira, who also coaches Team Wellington in the ISPS Handa Premiership, is expecting a stern examination of his squad’s abilities in Honiara.

New Zealand have been drawn in Group A with the hosts, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea while Group B consists of Fiji, New Caledonia, Tahiti and Samoa. The Solomon Islands is known as being the most football-mad nation in the South Pacific and fans regularly flock to Lawson Tama Stadium in their thousands to take in the action.

“I was there early in the year in my club capacity and it’s a really exciting place to go. It’s a really passionate football country so it will be a great experience in that sense for the players,” Figueira says.

“We’ll do all the preparation we can and get them prepared for what will be a huge challenge. Importantly, we want to show the personality we’ve been working on through the camps this year and try to impose that in some tricky conditions over there.”

Figueira has plenty of respect for the opponents New Zealand will be facing but has faith in his squad to get the job done.

“The resources, time and education that’s going in across OFC has been huge over the last couple of years and those nations are improving everything, both on and off the field,” he says.

“But, at the same time, I think we have a really exciting squad. It’s a group of really gifted players and the goal is always to qualify obviously but we want to go over there and do it the best way possible.”

New Zealand open their OFC U-16 Championship campaign against Vanuatu on Sunday 9 September at 11am (NZT) with live coverage available via www.oceaniafootball.com

New Zealand squad for OFC U-16 Championship

Goalkeepers
Alex Paulsen (Wellington United)
Luca Taylor (Birkenhead United)

Defenders
Max Drake (North Shore United)
Kris Naicker (Wellington United)
Adam Hillis (Wellington United)
Finn O’Connor (Wellington United)
Nathan Lobo (Birkenhead United)
Harry Bark (North Shore United)

Midfielders
Ryan Verney (Onehunga Sports)
Campbell Strong (Eastern Suburbs)
Marko Stamenic (Western Suburbs)
Jackson Manuel (Wellington United)
Matthew Garbett (Western Suburbs)
Sean Bright (Western Suburbs)
Ben Old (Wellington United)
Hayden Aish (Western Springs)

Forwards
Henry Hamilton (Wellington United)
Joseph Lee (Wellington United)
Oskar van Hattum (Wellington United)
Bradley Wilson (Western Springs)

Head coach: Jose Figueira
Assistant coach: Sam Wilkinson
Goalkeeping coach: Chris Marsh
Manager: Seamus Marten
Sports scientist: Weijie Lim
Physio: Justin Lopes

New Zealand schedule for OFC U-16 Championship

Vanuatu vs New Zealand
Sunday 9 September, 10am (11am NZT)
Lawson Tama Stadium, Honiara

Solomon Islands vs New Zealand
Wednesday 12 September, 3pm (4pm NZT)
Lawson Tama Stadium, Honiara

New Zealand vs Papua New Guinea
Saturday 15 September, 10am (11am NZT)
Lawson Tama Stadium, Honiara

Semi-Finals
Wednesday 19 September
Lawson Tama Stadium, Honiara

Final
Saturday 22 September
Lawson Tama Stadium, Honiara

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