© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2021

Most painful feeling; reflecting on the U20 Football World Cup in Poland

Emma Olsen
NZ U20 Men's football team
New Zealand players line up for the penalty shoot out in their game against Colombia  New Zealand Football

The New Zealand U20 Men's Football team made history at the recent World Cup in Poland. They showcased their loaded team of rising stars and set the standard for New Zealand's football future.

New Zealand under twenties football team vs Colombia at the world cup. Courtesy of YouTube.

New Zealand under twenties football team vs Colombia at the world cup. Courtesy of YouTube.

No men's team ever made it as far as the round of 16 except for the U20 men's team. 

Captain Max Mata reflected on the tournament.

"The team did exceptionally well in my opinion. The experience was great as it was my second World Cup and I really loved being there representing our beautiful country. I loved being a part of a team that surprised a lot of people worldwide with how New Zealand isn't a pushover footballing country anymore and that we are capable of winning football matches on the world stage". 

Mata said he wouldn't have changed anything looking back on the tournament as he thought everyone did the best they could; they just couldn't make it work on game day.

After claiming their first game 5 nil to Honduras on May 24 and then 2 nil to Norway four days later, the team's winning streak was ruined when they lost to Uruguay 2 nil on May 31.

"It was a tough game. Unfortunately, I think the downfall was we didn't stick to our initial game plan and that came back to haunt us." Mata said.

He was upset about the result as it was his first game back after being suspended for the first two games from getting a red card at qualifiers. Although, he was very excited that their team had still made it into the playoffs against Colombia.

A hard fought match played out on June 3 where the game went into shoot outs. Colombia came away with the win, scoring five goals and New Zealand only scoring four.

"I felt terrible after the loss. It's the most painful feeling football has ever given to me to date." Mata said. 

"Everybody was feeling the same way and it didn't feel right that we had lost a game we thought we should've won. I think Colombia finished that game feeling like they'd dodged a bullet, but that's football. You can't win everything". 

The team caught an early flight home which they believed felt wrong as they think they outplayed Colombia. 

Two years of training for the 2021 World Cup is the next step for the U20 Men's football team. For players like Max Mata who will be too old to play in the team again will continue to follow their football dream outside of the U20 league.

"It's back to Zurich for me. I'll continue my professional career and try to have a breakthrough season that will hopefully set my footballing life on a fantastic path." Mata said. 


Captain Max Mata
Captain Max Mata leading his U20 Mens football team onto the pitch to verse Uruguay at the World Cup Max Mata