A bevy of Wellington Phoenix youngsters and five European based players have highlighted Des Buckingham’s 21-player squad for the U20 World Cup, which is set to be staged across Poland from 23 May to 15 June.
Brisbane Roar’s Dane Ingham will be absent from the squad after the right-back was unable to overcome a foot injury in time for the tournament.
Senior New Zealand internationals Liberato Cacace (Wellington Phoenix), Sarpreet Singh (Wellington Phoenix) and Michael Woud (Willem II), however, will all feature in the group; as will European based George Stanger (Hamilton Academical), Leon van den Hoven (RKC Waalwijk), Trevor Zwetsloot (Werder Bremen) and Max Mata (Grasshoppers Zurich).
Zac Jones, Gianni Stensness, Willem Ebbinge, Callan Elliot are the other Phoenix representatives in the squad.
The New Zealanders will open their campaign against Honduras at the Arena Lublin on 24 May.
The Junior All Whites will then go on to clash with Norway at the Stadion Widzewa on 27 May before finishing their group play in a meeting with Uruguay at the same stadium on 30 May.
A one-time caretaker coach of the Wellington Phoenix, Buckingham took up his role at the head of New Zealand’s U20 sides (as well as an assistant with the senior side) in January of 2018 after a brief stint in the academy of Stoke City.
He guided the New Zealand’s youth to the U20 World Cup in August of 2018, when they won the 2018 OFC U19 Championship after triumphing 1-0 over Tahiti – who also qualified for the World Cup.
“I’ve been here for five years now and have worked across all the remits, from grassroots all the way through to clubs and now the national teams,” Buckingham said on the squad’s announcement.
“So, I’ve seen the growth of the game in this country and there’s some really good work being done across the whole breadth of New Zealand. We’re now starting to see some fruition of that.
“It’s a very good and exciting group of players.”
England are the reigning champions of the tournament but will not be in Poland to defend their crown; suffering a 3-0 defeat against Norway in a playoff for the final UEFA slot.
New Zealand’s best finish at the junior showcase is the round of 16, and Buckingham has identified that mark as a goal for his squad.
“When you go to these major events and are playing against the best players in the world for their age,” he said
“You need to take the players who are going to be able to compete on that world stage. I feel the 21 we’ve selected will do that and be proud to represent New Zealand.
“First and foremost, we will look at getting out of the group and the furthest New Zealand has gone at this tournament is the Round of 16.
“So, if we’re looking to create our own history, it will be to get to that game and win it.
“From there, we’ve seen what’s possible and there’s no reason why these players can’t do the same.”
New Zealand squad for FIFA U-20 World Cup
Michael Woud, Willem II (Netherlands)
Cameron Brown, Central United
Zac Jones, Wellington Phoenix
George Stanger, Hamilton Academicals (Scotland)
Nando Pijnaker, Eastern Suburbs
Dalton Wilkins, Eastern Suburbs
Gianni Stensness, Wellington Phoenix
Liberato Cacace, Wellington Phoenix
Callan Elliot, Wellington Phoenix
Dane Schnell, Western Springs
Joe Bell, University of Virginia (USA)
Dominic Wooldridge, Eastern Suburbs
Willem Ebbinge, Wellington Phoenix
Sarpreet Singh, Wellington Phoenix
Elijah Just, Eastern Suburbs
Leon van den Hoven, RKC Waalwijk (Netherlands)
Trevor Zwetsloot, Werder Bremen (Germany)
Matt Conroy, Western Springs
Max Mata, Grasshoppers Zurich (Switzerland)
Ben Waine, Wellington Phoenix
Callum McCowatt, Eastern Suburbs