NZ U-17 skipper Max Mata excited to play against Brazil and England

New Zealand is placed in Group B along with Mali, Paraguay and Turkey but Max Mata, the Under-17 team captain, is thrilled by the opportunity to prepare for the World Cup with warm-up matches against teams like Brazil and England.

Max Mata has been named the skipper of New Zealand Under-17 team.   -  NZ football

The New Zealand Under-17 team has arrived in India and will play two practice games, against Brazil and England, at the Mumbai Football Arena in Andheri this week.

New Zealand is placed in Group B along with Mali, Paraguay and Turkey but Max Mata, the Under-17 team captain, is thrilled by the opportunity to prepare for the World Cup with warm-up matches against teams like Brazil and England.

Excerpts from a chat with Sportstar:

Teams prefer to tune-up against equal opponents, but you have chosen Brazil and England.

For us, getting an opportunity to play against Brazil and England, leading into the World Cup here (at Mumbai Football Arena) is going to be an awesome experience. The harsh reality for us is that this is the (level of) opposition we will play when it counts (World Cup knockouts). We want to play teams who are really going to test us. It will show the character of each individual and as a team.

NZ was on a goal-scoring spree in the Oceania zone U-17 qualifiers. Will we see more goals in the World Cup?

It is a positive for us. We are planning to continue that, but don’t expect the same outcome in the World Cup. When we do get our chances, we will finish (convert) them.

NZ is appearing in its sixth successive U-17 World Cup. Youth football seems to be on the right track...

New Zealand football is starting to get more football-minded. Like-minded people are in control, so we have the best coaching staff. Danny Hay, ex-All Whites (New Zealand) captain, is the head coach. Two former captains — Chris Zorocick and Jason Batty — are the assistant and goalkeeping coaches of the team. The preparation is getting better and better. We are picking up things each time so that we can get even better.

Your head coach Danny Hay also held the helm at the 2015 U-17 World Cup in Chile...

We trust Danny and what he says. He has seen this before, was in the middle of it and has the first-hand experience. He actually knows what is going on. We can trust him 100 per cent.

First impressions on D.Y. Patil stadium (match venue) and the MFA (practice venue)...

Wonderful. The World Cup stadium (DYP) is looking amazing, the field is looking good. It is a little bit different from New Zealand. The set-up of the stadium is different from New Zealand, so is the climate. I don’t know how to explain, it is different.

Are any of your team-mates playing outside NZ in any of the leagues, in Australia or elsewhere?

Our central midfielder Oliver Duncan, goalkeeper Nicholas Milner and centre-back Emlyn Wellsmore have played for Brisbane Roars (club) in Australia.

Support Sportstar


Dear Reader,

Support our journalism — where text and pictures intermingle so seamlessly — and help us scale up your experience as the world changes around us. Your contribution is vital to our brand of uninfluenced, boots-on-the-ground reportage that’s worth your while. Clickbait sensationalism is not for us, but editorial independence is — we owe it to you.

  Dugout videos