When the draw for the FIFA U-20 World Cup was made the Junior All Whites circled one game - their final group match against hosts Argentina - as one they all wanted to play in.
But fatigue and yellow cards mean some players will be forced to miss out on this game in front of a sell-out crowd of 25 thousand people in San Juan on Saturday morning (New Zealand time).
New Zealand are unbeaten at the tournament so far with a win in their opening game against Guatemala and a draw against Uzbekistan. The clash against Argentina, who are two wins from two games, will be the Junior All Whites' third game in a week.
The team's aim is qualify for the round of 16, which will be guaranteed if they can beat or draw against the hosts. If they lose they could still progress as on of the four best third-placed teams out of the six groups.
Coach Darren Bazeley says if they let Argentina dominate the game the South Americans will "hurt" them.
"We're not going to be able to go and full press them but we are going to try to put them under a lot of pressure. We definitely won't sit off we want to be brave, we want to have courage and we want to play attacking football as well as aggressive defending.
"I think the days of New Zealand sitting in a deep block and defending and trying to win on the counter attack and set pieces is gone. We've got some players that are capable of actually playing a game of football here."
Bazeley has often commented on the depth of his squad and he will need to dig deep for the final group game.
"The games that we've had now they're not 90 minutes anymore, we've played 102 minutes, 101 minutes, 10 minutes injury time here and four minutes before halftime so we've played a lot of minutes and some of our guys are pretty heavy in their loading... some of them are slightly fatigued so we'll look at what is the best fit for the game and who's going to be at their best.
"I've said to the players for us to compete at this level we need the 11 players on the pitch to be at 100 percent we can't carry people, especially against Argentina."
Another factor weighing on Bazeley's team selection is that five players are sitting on a yellow card and if they picked up one more against Argentina they would miss the knockout game.
Losing five players for the next game is not a situation Bazeley wants to deal with.
"Some of those guys that have played heavy minutes are also on a yellow card so potentially it is the right thing to look at some changes in some positions
"But everybody wants to play, no player wants to miss this game this is the big game against the host nation."
Bazeley says his team "can't hide" from the fact they will be playing in front of the hostile crowd the likes of which many of the New Zealanders won't have experienced before. Instead he is telling them to embrace the occasion and focus on what is happening on the field.
"Nothing is going to happen in the game that any of them haven't witnessed or been part of before so nothing should surprise them but it's going to be a great atmosphere and they're obviously playing against some really talented players.
"So we've challenged them show us how good they are I think it is a great opportunity for people to stand up and show that they are ready to move forward in their careers, move forward into professional environments and move forward into being future All Whites."2023-05-26T02:09:53Z dg43tfdfdgfd