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We played like warriors: New Caledonia coach

101   //    14 Oct 2017, 21:02 IST

Kolkata, Oct 14 (PTI) It was an emotional moment for New Caledonia to score their first point in the FIFA U-17 World Cup in their 1-1 draw against Japan and coach Dominique Wacalie today said the island nation had come to a standstill in their support.

Having conceded 12 goals from two matches, the U-17 World Cup debutants showed fighting spirit against the East Asian powerhouse who were held to a frustrating 1-1 draw but still sealed a last-16 berth.

Wacalie said that his team was intimidated by the World Cup atmosphere earlier but showed warrior like spirit in their final group match here.

"We really played like a team with a big heart. To play in a World Cup can be a scary for players. It's difficult and it distracted the players and the performance was not the way we wanted," Wacalie said.

"But today they played with real passion, and showed what we are capable of. It was about looking into the eyes of the opposition and the boys did just that. The attitude they showed today was simply brilliant. NCL are warriors, who like to fight for their goals," Wacalie who took charge of the team in April after New Caledonia's historic qualification said.

"I'm not just coach but I'm functioning like general manager of New Caledonia. For me it's personal feeling attached to this team," he said.

"The entire country was like paralysed in support of the team. I'm receiving messages from family and friends, it's really an overwhelming experience."

One of the nation's young brigade of coaches, Wacalie previously held the role of regional Technical Director in New Caledonia and he said he also doubles up as a general manager of the team.

Having made as many as nine changes to their starting line-up, Japan started off brilliantly with a seventh minute goal but only to survive a late scare from New Caledonia.

Coach Yoshiro Moriyama blamed it on the inexperience of the players.

"We started well but after that players became timid and inactive like they have loads of pressure on their back," Moriyama said.

"With the new set of players we could not show our best on the pitch. The combination did not work and players became ineffective," he said.

Asked about his strategy in the match, Moriyama said: "I brought players who were eager and hungry and gave them chance instead of bringing in players who were tired.

"I hope to improve the quality and plug the loopholes before the next match," he said about their prequarterfinal here on October 17.

"Whichever team we play, it will be a tough game. The Iraq No. 7 (Mohammed Dawood) is a wonderful player. We have faced them in the Asian qualifiers. They show a lot of aggressive spirit. It would be another tough match for us."

He also hailed New Caledonia's fighting spirit and said they deserved to return home with one point.

"I'm impressed by the excitement they showed. They played with a lot of courage, delivering the ball forward. Their performance was 180-degree different from their past outings," Moriyama said

Press Trust of India (PTI) is a news agency in India
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