Junior All Whites coach Chris Milicich has named his 21-strong squad for the FIFA U-20 World Cup to be played in Turkey next month.
The majority of the squad that qualified for the world cup in Fiji have been retained, with three personnel changes and an additional goalkeeper added to the travelling party.
“I am extremely pleased with the squad we have named. Everyone we wanted was made available by their clubs, and this has allowed us to name arguably our strongest squad,” said Milicich.
Utility Tim Payne comes into the squad adding senior international experience to the group and boosts Milicich’s midfield options along with 2011 Young All Whites teammate Rhys Jordan from Bristol City in England.
“The inclusion of Tim [Payne] and Rhys [Jordan] should allow us to continue to look to play through the middle third of the field as we play to the conditions and the nature of the tournament,” said Milicich.
Defender Alec Solomons, who suffered injury on the eve of departure to Fiji, has recovered to take his place in the squad, while Wellington-based gloveman Daniel Clarke picks up the third goalkeeper berth.
New Zealand qualified for the FIFA U-20 World Cup with four wins from four matches in difficult conditions in Fiji, sweeping aside Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and the hosts on consecutive match days to clinch their berth in Turkey.
While Milicich was pleased with the squad effort through the gruelling schedule to get to the world cup, onlookers recognised the efforts of several individuals within the squad in Fiji, in particular Max Crocombe and Louis Fenton.
Oxford United goalkeeper Crocombe earned the ‘Golden Glove’ award for best goalkeeper and took his New Zealand form back to his club where he started the last three matches of the League Two season keeping a clean sheet in each match and earning a contract extension in the process.
Louis Fenton was awarded the ‘Golden Ball’ award for best player of the tournament and capped off a stellar year in which he made the leap from ASB Premiership to professional football with the Wellington Phoenix.
“I think the recognition of individuals within the Junior All Whites reflects the exciting talent that New Zealand has at this age level,” says Milicich.
“At least eight players are in fulltime professional environments, another five are training with the Wellington Phoenix’s Football School of Excellence, and a couple more in private academies in New Zealand.
“Part of our role is to develop future All Whites, but we’re lucky enough to be able to call on guys like Tim [Payne] and Cameron [Howieson] who have played for the national team already.”
8-cap All White Payne was a regular in the Blackburn Rovers reserves this season and was part of Ricki Herbert’s squad that clinched qualification for the intercontinental playoff against New Caledonia in Dunedin in March.
He went on to score his first international goals in a 2-0 win over the Solomon Islands in Honiara four days later. Both matches fell during the window in which the OFC U-20 Championship was played in Fiji.
The bulk of the Junior All Whites squad will meet in Auckland on June 7 before travelling to Sydney for an international match with the Young Socceroos three days later.
“The three international matches we have lined up are crucial in terms of our preparation. We haven-t been together as a group since Fiji, but we came together well before then and I’m sure we-ll do the same before Turkey,” said Milicich.
Crocombe, Jordan and Payne will link up with the side for a pre-tournament camp in the Turkish city of Anatalya, where they will face their counterparts from Iraq and Egypt before moving to Bursa, where they will play their group matches.
New Zealand’s first match is against Uzbekistan on June 23, before facing Uruguay three days later, and rounding out their group stage against Croatia on June 29. All of the Junior All Whites matches will be played in Bursa.
To view the squad and timetable please visit the following link: NZ Football U20 squad