Kolkata, Oct 14 (IANS) With his wards picking up their first ever point in a FIFA World Cup, New Caledonia coach Dominique Wacalie on Saturday said he was proud of the way the players overcame nerves at playing such a top flight event to put up a spirited display against Japan in a Group E U-17 World Cup encounter here.
New Caledonia skipper Jekob Jeno pegged back in the 83rd minute at the Vivekananda Yuva Bharati Krirangan after Keito Nakamura gave Japan the lead in the seventh minute.
The players and support staff of the tiny special collectivity of France located in the Southwest Pacific Ocean broke into wild jubilation after the goal and the final whistle.
With a population of around 280,000 — similar to the Indian towns of Purnia (in Bihar) and Satna (in Madhya Pradesh), it had become the smallest nation to qualify for any World Cup in February when it finished runners up in the OFC U-17 championships.
Along with hosts India, they were debutants in any FIFA World Cup across age groups and conceded a dozen goals in their first two matches (1-7 to France and 0-5 to Honduras).
“It is a proud moment for us. We scored a goal. We snatched a point from a strong team like Japan. The country is very proud and is celebrating,” the coach told reporters at the post-match press conference here.
“Before coming here, our expectations was not high. We wanted to compete and that was our main objective. To play against a team like Japan who have such high standards, it was a special result,” Wacalie said.
“We are a team with a big heart. To be in a World Cup is scary for the players and it’s difficult. So players were distracted. Today they were the real team with good passes and a desire to go forward,” he added.
Wacalie said he spoke to the players ahead of the game about finishing with a good show.
“The team really wanted to play well in this match. I spoke to the players about performing well. You can train but without determination nothing is possible. The attitude they showed on the pitch was great,” Wacalie added.
“New Caledonia players are warriors. We fight for our goals and despite the difference with other teams we fought really hard and had a lot of determination.”
The coach said the entire country was really charged up for this game and the families of the players got behind them with great gusto.
“The entire country was paralysed for this match. They were behind the team and the players received a lot of support from their families. So they were really charged up,” Wacalie said.
He also thanked the over 44,000 spectators at the stadium for egging on the team.
“The crowd also got behind us. And it was great to play in front of so many people. They supported the underdog,” the coach said.
Wacalie’s Japanese counterpart Yoshiro Moriyama praised the New Caledonians for their courageous game.
“They played with courage. they played the ball forward and showed courage and it was 180 degrees different to how we played. We were inactive,” said Moriyama.
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