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Unrated All Whites keen to surprise

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 15/06/2017

Largely unrated, but with little to lose, the All Whites won't be taking a backward step in their opening Confederations Cup match against Russia in St Petersburg early on Sunday.

Defender Michael Boxall says one of the big talking points for the Kiwis has been belief and mentality: they believe they can beat the biggest teams in the world through hard work, determination and quality football.

"Outside of this group there are very few people who rate us as a chance of going too far in this tournament, Russia included.

"The pressure of the crowd behind them, every single one of their mistakes is going to be magnified. What we want to do is silence the crowd."

Ranked 95th in the world, there is little expectation around what the New Zealanders can achieve in Group A alongside world No.63 Russia, 17th-ranked Mexico and No.8 Portugal.

There is, however, is plenty of belief within the 23-man squad.

Boxall, a key figure in the national team since making his debut for the All Whites against China in 2011, said the team loves to rise to the occasion.

"Any time we have come onto bigger stages against much stronger teams, it is a challenge that we love to embrace," he said.

"I think we love proving people wrong. We love coming up against much stronger teams and surprising a few people."

Recent results against world-class opposition USA and Mexico last year tend to bear that out.

The All Whites lost 2-1 to Mexico in Nashville and drew 1-1 with the USA in Washington DC, following on from a 1-0 loss to highly ranked South Korea in Seoul.

Boxall, who has played 24 internationals for New Zealand, said the team had done their homework and know what they'll need to do to push Russia.

First and foremost will be containing Fyodor Smolov up front.

The Russian No 9 was dangerous in the recent 1-1 draw with Chile, and with 38 goals from 51 appearances is the hosts' key play-maker.

The All Whites will be also looking to exploit a lack of experience at the back, where Russia have recently lost 221 caps, leaving Spartak Moscow defender Georgiy Dzhikiya a big role to play.

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