Deklan Wynne is set to compete in the biggest soccer competition of his life.
The 22-year-old Whitecaps FC 2 left back is off to Russia this weekend to take part in the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup, a prelude to the 2018 FIFA World Cup, with the New Zealand national team. The Kiwis open the tournament against the hosts this coming Saturday, June 17 at 7:30 a.m. PT live on TSN5.
- TV SCHEDULE: CONFEDERATIONS CUP ON TSN
“I’m very excited especially for me being young to be chosen for such a big tournament,” said Wynne, who made his Whitecaps FC first-team debut in last month’s 2-1 win over Montreal Impact in the Canadian Championship semifinal. “Obviously, it’s like a dream come true. The teams we are playing have some big players so it’s definitely something to look forward to.”
Big players may be an understatement when examining the rosters of Portugal, Mexico, and Russia – the three nations New Zealand has drawn in their group.
For the Portuguese side, it begins with all-world striker Cristiano Ronaldo, who depending on who you ask, could be the greatest the sport has ever seen. The red carpet doesn’t stop there; the Portuguese side also boasts budding FC Barcelona star Andre Gomes, and veteran stalwarts Joao Mountinho, Nani, and Pepe. The Mexican side is led by a pair of 28-year-old forwards in Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez and Giovani dos Santos. And the host Russians are directed by goalkeeper and captain Igor Akinfeev.
Wynne mentioned the most famous player he’s had to mark was Tottenham winger Son Heung-min when facing South Korea. After this tournament, that name could very well change.
“Obviously, you’re going to be star struck but I think you just have to go out there and play the game you know,” he said. “Just give everything you’ve got and, as hard as it seems, take it as a normal game.”
From a team perspective, Wynne knows where his nation stands in the pecking order, but feels if they stick to their system the Kiwis can make some noise and surprise some people.
“I think we’re definitely given the underdog tag because we’re a small team,” he said. “I think we go in there with no fear like the last few games we’ve played. The last couple of years we’ve implemented a new style of play and everyone knows what they must do. If we go there and implement the system 100 per cent, we have a good chance of causing an upset.”
New Zealand enter the tournament on a five-match unbeaten streak, including a 1-1 draw with the United States in Washington, D.C. last October. They open the Confederations Cup against the host Russians on Saturday in Saint Petersburg before facing Mexico on June 21 and Portugal on June 24.