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We’ll not lie down for Nigeria — New Zealand

By John Egbokhan, Abuja

New Zealand coach, Steve Cain, has said that Nigeria ’s Golden Eaglets would not have an easy ride to victory when both sides clash in tomorrow’s second round fixture of the FIFA Under-17 World Cup at the Abuja National Stadium.


Despite being considered outsiders, the Oceania champions, earned a historic first ever qualification for the knockout stage of a FIFA tournament to prove the doubters wrong in the most dramatic fashion imaginable. Midfielder Jack Hobson-McVeigh ensured a 1-1 draw with Turkey , and the point needed for qualification, with an unforgettable long range injury time effort to score a spectacular goal worthy of its historic nature.
The magnitude of the milestone feat is all the more remarkable when one considers this is New Zealand ‘s 16th FIFA tournament. The Young All Whites have come a long way in the 12 years since their first appearance at the FIFA U-17 World Cup.

They still hold the unwanted record for the heaviest defeat at the tournament, a 13-0 loss to Spain at Egypt 1997, but the scale of improvement in little over a decade shows how far football in the Rugby mad nation of some four million inhabitants has come.

But speaking yesterday in Abuja , Coach Cain says that playing the Eaglets holds no fear for his history_making boys, who are enjoying themselves at the tournament. He also recounted the moment in Calabar that turned his team into local heroes back hone.

“With a few minutes to go it was the first time in six months that I thought we were not going to qualify. And I smacked myself on the hand for thinking that! It just felt that it wasn’t going to be our day, and that it would be a bridge too far. But I have to give credit to the team for backing ourselves.

“It’s just brilliant; a first for our country and it’s a real milestone,” continues Cain from the side of the pool, where his young charges are relaxing after their exertions the previous night”, added coach Cain, whose view on the match against Nigeria would interest coach John Obuh and his history chasing players.

“Now we need to make sure that we can make this the norm and not the exception. We are looking forward to playing Nigeria , the a group winners. My boys will learn a lot from an occasion like that. And I’ll tell you one other thing, whoever we play would not have it easy. We won’t lie down for anyone. We are ready”, said Cain.


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