FIFA U-17 WC: New Zealand coach wary of Mali threat after shock loss against Paraguay

New Zealand coach Danny Hay is aware of the threat that last year's runner-up Mali poses, after the latter trounced Turkey 3-0 on Monday.

Coach Danny Hay gestures during his side's match against Paraguay on Monday.   -  FIFA.COM

After slumping to a shock 2-4 defeat against Paraguay in its Group B encounter here tonight, New Zealand head-coach Danny Hay expressed regret but praised his team's work-ethic. 

"The boys worked really hard, you can't fault their work ethic. We just made a couple of individual errors but that's football. We probably didn't maintain our positions as well as we could have," he said.

READ: Vega's brace resigns New Zealand to shock defeat

"Also, we were playing against a very good team that put us under pressure. But the boys can walk off the field with their heads held high. We've got a tough game against Mali now in New Delhi," he added.

Mali, having trounced Turkey 3-0 on Monday, will start as clear favourite against the Kiwis and Hay is aware of the threat it poses. "We know that Mali is a very strong side. The African teams have that history of winning the U-17s and even the U-20s. They (Mali) have shown today what a quality side they are and how dangerous they are. 

"We just have to regroup after tonight. The boys are pretty thin, quite fatigued - they got cut up a fair bit playing on that pitch. This is the nature of playing the World Cup and these young players are learning a heck of a lot," he said.

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New Zealand flies to capital Delhi for its next group tie against Mali but coach Hay said he will miss Mumbai. "We loved Mumbai," he said with a smile.  

"I look back now and the decision to come here early was a really good decision - we've had a wonderful time and the people here have been very welcoming. The support that we've had has been excellent along with the quality of the training pitches, the facilities here at D.Y. Patil have been really good. 

"We're actually a bit sad to leave from here. We wish we were drawn here for all three games. But going to New Delhi will be a new experience. I hear it is even busier than Mumbai which I can't quite believe (laughs), so that will be an eye-opener for the boys," he added.

Two of its four goals against Paraguay were conceded off a set-piece. Asked if that is the team's primary Achilles Heel, Hay said, "We're disappointed to have conceded of a set-piece. We had a goal that we won't give away goals of set-piece; we wanted to avoid that. But we played against quality sides like Brazil, England in the warm-ups and now Turkey, Paraguay - it has been tough for us. We'll gain a lot from these experiences."

Hay also sang praises of star striker and captain Max Mata. "Max is an outstanding leader of the team," he said. "I am extremely proud of the way the boys stood up after a couple of changes that were made. But Max will be a welcome addition against Mali. The players that came in did a great job. They should be proud," he said.

ALSO READ: Turkey optimistic of knockout place despite loss

About not playing its last league match in Mumbai, the head-coach said, "Look it is clearly not ideal having to jump on a plane tomorrow and fly when you're trying to recover. 

"But we knew that was going to be the case when we came here and we prepared for that. At the World Cup, the final group games need to be played at the same time, so two teams have to move somewhere but it is unfortunate that's us. But it will be a new experience," he concluded.