Paraguay vs New Zealand – Grudge match on the cards?October 9, 2017
MUMBAI: After the FIFA U-17 World Cup draw ceremony earlier this year, New Zealand coach Danny Hay had only one thing on his mind – how to stop Paraguay from exacting revenge.
These two teams were in the same group in the previous edition in 2015 too. They faced each other in the last match of the group, with both teams needing a win to progress. New Zealand, however, manged to eke out a victory, courtesy a 91st winner by Lucas Imrie against 10-man Paraguay, effectively knocking them out of the tournament.
So, when the two teams face each other at the DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai on Monday, Hay knows that his team will have to come up with something exceptional in order to win.
“They (Paraguay) are 100 per cent out to gain revenge. We did knock them out of the World Cup after all. They’ll be taking nothing for granted as they know we can give them a challenge. They’re a great team with the right mentality. They’re very dangerous on set pieces and counter attacks. They’re skilful and quick so we have to be at our best,” Hay told TOI in an exclusive interaction after their training session on Saturday
Paraguay were at their tactical and physical best when they beat last tournament’s runners-up Mali 3-2 on Friday and they will want to book a spot in the knockouts by beating New Zealand.
They will however have to keep their defence more compact and avoid any lapse in concentration as they did against Mali which saw them concede two goals in quick succession. The New Zealand team looked a little unsettled in the opening 20 minutes of their 1-1 draw against Turkey on Friday, but once they got into their rhythm, they really troubled the Turkish defence, even hitting the post once.
Their captain Max Mata, who got them the equaliser, is suspended for the match after picking up two yellow cards. Coach Hay said it’s a big loss, but his team have no other option but to cope with the situation.
“Mata was easily one of the best players on the pitch. It’s a big blow to lose him, but it’s an opportunity for another lad to step up and claim his place,” Hay said. In Mata’s absence, Elijah Just will wear the captain’s armband for the OFC U-17 champions.