Four Young Christchurch Footballers Win First International Trophy and Achieve World Cup Dream

Four young Christchurch Footballers are breaking new ground in their careers helping New Zealand to the U17 FIFA World Cup in Peru this November, Nicholas Murphy, Jackson Cole, Eric Sugahara and Matt Foord have all played an integral part in the New Zealand U17 team which won the Oceania U17 Championships on Saturday night and qualified for the World Cup.

Nicholas and Jackson currently play for Christchurch United, while Cashmere Technical players Eric and Matt are also products of the Christchurch United Academy having been with the club for many years in the youth grades.

The presence of the four South Island based players, along with former Canterbury lad Luke Supyk is a big shift in national team selections. In recent decades most national squads would only have one or two, or in most ocassions no South Island players at all.

This change is a reward and reflection of the hard work many clubs around Christchurch have done in recent years to improve their youth development. The fact that Aaron Clapham a Christchurch based coach and former All White himself is the current assistant of the U17 side has helped to identify the talent coming through in Christchurch.

After narrowly beating New Caledonia in their first game 3-2, thanks to a Hat-Trick from former Waimak United and Nomads United player Luke Supyk. New Zealand then thrashed American Samoa 11-0 with Nicholas Murphy captaining the side to top the group and move into the knockout stages of the tournament.

“Playing with the fern on my chest was one hell of an achievement, but that feeling of walking my team out and captianing my side, my country, is a feeling that will never leave me. Unbelievably honoured and proud to do so. As great as this moment is for me, by no means does it allow me to slack off. I’ve still got a job to do so that’s all I’m focusing on for now.” - Nicholas Murphy on captaining our country for the first time.

The team then faced what proved to be a tough test against a well-organised Vanuatu side in the quarter-finals with New Zealand eventually winning the game in the 90th minute when Luke Supyk once again was the hero for his country converting the penalty awarded to him emphatically into the top right corner of the goal.

New Zealand then comfortably beat the host nation Fiji in the Semi-Finals with a dominant 4-1 victory to qualify for the U17 FIFA World Cup in Peru later this year. They finished the job off on Saturday night with a 1-0 win over New Caledonia to take the trophy back to New Zealand for the 8th time in a row. All 4 South Island based players played their part in the tournament and all featured in the final, most notably Matt Foord pulled off some important saves for his team throughout the game and especially in the dying stages of the match with New Zealand down to 10 men, he pulled off a few world class saves and kept a clean sheet to help his country to their 9th OFC U17 Championship title.

Matt Foord ended up winning the Man of the Match award in the Final, the Golden Glove of the tournament and making the team of the tournament.

“When I heard that final whistle my immediate reaction was just run and hug my nearest teammate. I was just filled with joy and to celebrate something as big as the win, with my new brothers was a very special and heartfelt moment for me. Safe to say there wasn’t a time when I wasn’t smiling haha. The boys worked super hard and put in shifts day in day out on and off the pitch, so for me it was well deserved. Now next job, PERU”

- Nicholas Murphy on winning his first international trophy and qualifying for the FIFA World Cup.

The last 18 days have been a dream come true for the 4 Christchurch boys, to go from their local teams to qualifying for the World Cup and winning their first international trophy in just the space of 2 and a half weeks. All eyes are now focused on having a good season back home and then making their mark on the world stage this November in Peru.