Football: Shot at the big time for junior All Whites

For Junior All White Deklan Wynne - and many of his teammates - tonight's game against Portugal at the Under-20 World Cup is all about opportunity.

It's not only the opportunity to achieve a historic result but also a chance to put themselves in the shop window; to shine on one of the biggest international stages for a young footballer.

There are estimated to be 50 international scouts and agents in New Zealand for this tournament, all on the lookout for new talent.

Performances in the group stages would have been noted but it is what you do in the knockout stages that really counts, and standing out against a team such as Portugal would certainly turn heads.

Wynne is one of plenty in the New Zealand side who are still waiting for their break, to make that leap from promising amateur to fulltime professional.

The fullback had an extended trial with West Bromwich Albion this year, fellow midfielder Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi has spent time at Aberdeen while Clayton Lewis and Moses Dyer had stints at Norwich in March.

"Every game you play in the World Cup is a shop window for us," says Wynne. "If we go out there [tonight] and do our best a few guys might get picked up - hopefully."

Dyer only recently turned 18 but already harbours professional ambitions.

"Obviously that is the dream," said Dyer. "You want to be in a professional environment, playing football for a living. This tournament is a chance to show what you can do."

Wynne has had a mixed tournament thus far. Expected to be one of the standouts - given his experience with the senior side - he was exposed defensively at times against both Ukraine and US.

But the 20-year-old has great promise and remains one of the team's best offensive threats. Two of the goals against Myanmar came from his crosses and he also created chances in the other group games.

But Portugal will be at another level, with possession at a premium.

"We have been watching them [during the tournament] just because of how well they play," said Wynne. "[So] to be playing against them, it is going to be unbelievable but it is a great challenge."

New Zealand's youngsters have never beaten a European team in an Under-20 World Cup.

The Junior All Whites lost 2-0 to Portugal in 2007, 1-0 to the same opponents in 2011 and 2-1 to Croatia in 2013 before the 0-0 draw with Ukraine last week.

"We are big underdogs but anything can happen in a game of football," said New Zealand coach Darren Bazeley of tonight's match in Hamilton. "We will have a chance to score - or chances - and when that comes we need to take it. And if we do, and we keep the game tight ... well, underdogs can win these games."

Bazeley added his team would be taking a pragmatic but not overly defensive approach.

"We will play what the game gives us. We definitely can't sit and wait for them ... we need to be positive but also aware of their strengths and weaknesses."

- by Michael Burgess, NZ Herald 

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