New Zealand Under-20 International looks back on home World Cup and ahead to the new seasonNik Tzanev said it was an ‘incredible feeling’ to be part of the New Zealand Under-20 squad that made history in their home World Cup earlier this summer.
The Junior All-Whites had never won a match at a World Cup previously and, after picking up one point from their opening two games, it looked like that run would continue.
However, with Nik making his debut in goal, they won their final group game 5-1 against Myanmar to qualify for the Last 16 where they lost 2-1 to Portugal.
Speaking to Bees Player after returning to Brentford’s Jersey Road Training Ground Nik said: “It was quite a long summer to say the least. I was away with New Zealand for two months. I left in mid May and we had a couple of friendlies when I got there before we went into the FIFA World Cup bubble on the 28 May.
“I was really happy to get two matches, make the Round of 16 and make history with the New Zealand team. We won my first match 5-1. It was an amazing atmosphere in Wellington with a crowd of about 15,000. It was an incredible feeling at the end when we had written history and got through to the Round of 16. It was the first time I had ever had my name on the back of my shirt. It was a huge boost and a big step in my progression as a goalkeeper.”
Nik was selected for the New Zealand squad after Academy Analyst Xarius Desai sent clips of the 18-year-old to the coaching staff in New Zealand.
The tall-goalkeeper was thankful the support he received from the whole Academy in the build-up to the summer which allowed him to take the opportunity to play in a home World Cup.
“It was amazing support from all areas of the Academy to get me there,” said Nik. “Ose Aibangee gave me the time off, Xarius Desai created all the clips and there was great support from the club. Being allowed that time off was amazing.”
It was also an important summer for Nik as he signed his first professional contract with the Development Squad.
Wellington-born Nik said his one-year contract gives him a great opportunity to improve, especially working with Simon Royce and the first-team goalkeeping unit, and he is keen to push on as far as possible.
“Signing my Development Squad contract shows that my hard work has been paying off,” said Nik. “I am really happy to have a professional contract. I want to see how this year goes and then move on from there. I need to train hard and get as much game time as possible, on loan if that is what is needed. I want to improve my performance every day.
“I have found it really good to work with Simon Royce and the first-team goalkeepers. It has been harder but I am getting used to it quite well. I need to get that experience now because the next step is first-team and that is where I need to be. You have to set your goals high otherwise you won’t get too far in life. The first-team is my goal this season and hopefully I can push on and get onto the bench this season.”