FIFA Under 17 World Cup’s Lone Ranger

Andy Milne_1

How many of you know the player pictured above, not many I bet. It is of course Andy Milne, Rangers sole representative at the FIFA Under 17 World Cup in Nigeria. It saddens me to say that the club has not felt that Andrew’s achievement has  been worth even the smallest mention on the Official website. So I will try and do it justice in a little post on the blog.

A few of you may have seen Andy in last season’s Glasgow Cup Final victory over Celtic at Broadwood, where he had an excellent game at left back.  In the month before that game Andrew was part of the New Zealand side that won the Oceania Under 17’s Championship, scoring in each of his country’s three games. This victory meant they had qualified for World Finals in Nigeria.

AndrewMilne-side300The Kiwis were drawn in the same group as Costa Rica, Burkina Faso and Turkey. First up was the Central Americans and New Zealand took the lead after 19 minutes, Andy holding the ball up and fending off several defenders to set up Michael Built who blasted home. The Costa Ricans equalised in the first half, and with the second half being goalless it was a creditable start for the New Zealand side.

In their second match they were up against it, going a goal down to Barkina Faso and struggling to get out of their own half. Keeping the score at 1-0 proved to be essential when in a rare attack skipper Gordon Murie got his head to a free -kick to glance the ball home. Just after the hour mark an incredible downpour gave the referee no option but to take the players from the field. This may have helped the Kiwis, as when the game resumed almost two hours later, they managed to hold out to record their second 1-1 draw.

The final group match was against  the group favourites Turkey, but a positive was the Turks had won their two games and had already qualified for the next phase, so left out four of their regular starters for this game. The Turkish side were still the dominant team and took an early lead in the first half. Once again the New Zealand side showed their great spirit and hung in there. Just when it looked like they would suffer their first defeat an injury time wonder strike from Jack Hobson-McVeigh gave them their third 1-1 draw and a place in the next round as one of the top third placed sides, a fantastic achievement for a New Zealand soccer team.

Andy Milne_2The last 16 saw them up against the hosts Nigeria and it was a step too far for the young Kiwis. Down 2-0 after 25 minutes they never recovered and went on to lose a further three goals. Some consolation for them is that Nigeria are still in the tournament and face Spain in tomorrow’s semi final. From Andy Milne’s perspective the tournament was agreat success, playing every minute in all four games. The challenge now for Andrew is to kick on with his club career. With preparation and the tournament itself he has been away from Murray Park for a significant amount of time. I am sure he will have benefited from this experience and will be pushing for a starting place in the under 19’s in the coming months.

Footnote:- Andy wasn’t the only Scottish based player in the New Zealand squad, Jamie Doris who featured in three of the for games has recently signed  for Hibs.

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