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Billlingsley ready to step up for NZ

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 22/05/2017

Two years ago, Noah Billingsley was a raw 17-year-old and the youngest member of a New Zealand team which made it through pool play for the first time at an under-20 football World Cup.

He's hoping that experience will stand him in good stead early on Tuesday (NZT) when the young New Zealanders play Vietnam in their opening pool match of 2017 edition of the age-group tournament.

Darren Bazeley's team boasts plenty of top-level experience, with Billingsley joined by senior internationals Clayton Lewis and Moses Dyer as well as All Whites Dane Ingham, Henry Cameron and Logan Rogerson.

Lewis and Dyer were also part of the 2015 team, and Billingsley believes their inside knowledge will be key.

"That knowledge of what it's actually going to be like will be really valuable," the rangy striker said.

"The main thing I took away from last time is to remember that it's just another game. It's on a bigger stage than normal but you just need to take a deep breath and relax.

"You just need to keep it simple really."

Now based at the University of California, Santa Barbara - the same school former All White Tony Lochhead and current international Michael Boxall attended - Billingsley feels he's gained strength over the past two years.

"It's a very physical game over there and I've learned a lot. I've grown not only physically but mentally as well," he said.

"I need to work on linking up with certain players and other technical things. That will definitely help me progress onto the next stage, because I'm there physically, I just have to keep pushing on technically."

New Zealand's other two pool games in South Korea are against Honduras late on Thursday and France on Sunday (both NZT), with at least one win needed to progress through to the next stage.

The young Kiwis were beaten 2-1 by Portugal in the round of 16 two years ago, after conceding a crucial 87th-minute goal.

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