New Zealand under-20s may avoid big names

FRED WOODCOCK
Last updated 09:06 26/03/2013

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New Zealand will face Uzbekistan, Uruguay and Croatia at the men's under-20 football World Cup in Turkey if they beat Fiji in Lautoka tomorrow - and it's a big if.

The draw for the 24-team tournament was conducted in Istanbul this morning (NZT) with the yet-to-be-determined Oceania champions drawn in group F alongside Asian, South American and European opposition. Group matches will be played in Antalya and Bursa, two of the seven host cities.

The Oceania champions have avoided some of the big names of world football, though performances at senior level are not always a good indicator of a nation's strength at age group level.

New Zealand, who have won all three matches at the Oceania qualifying tournament in Fiji, can secure a berth in Turkey with victory in their final match against the hosts tomorrow.

However, a draw or loss opens the door for Fiji, who have won two from two. A draw would leave Fiji requiring a six-goal margin of victory in their final match against weak link Papua New Guinea, who have conceded 11 goals in their two matches, while a loss would leave Fiji requiring a mere win or draw against PNG.

Results suggest the Junior All Whites-Fiji match (5pm tomorrow NZT) should go down to the wire.

Both teams have beaten Vanuatu and New Caledonia by one-goal margins, New Zealand escaping yesterday with a 3-2 victory over New Caledonia having trailed 2-0 after 25 minutes.

Louis Fenton struck a 29th minute penalty before Van Elia and Rory Turner each scored in the space of five minutes early in the second half to ensure a second pivotal New Zealand win against New Caledonia in four days, after the All Whites' late 2-1 senior World Cup qualifying victory in Dunedin on Friday.

Fiji will go into tomorrow's crucial match with three days' rest, having had their bye yesterday.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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