All Whites coach Anthony Hudson is excited about his team's draw for the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup and said his side is determined to make a statement on the world stage.
The All Whites will play host nation Russia in St Petersburg in the opening match and will also face Portugal and Mexico in next year's FIFA Confederations Cup.
The Official Draw held at the Kazan Tennis Academy today revealed the path to the coveted trophy at next year's Tournament of Champions.
With Russia's two-time Olympic champion pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva assisting with the draw, New Zealand were drawn alongside the 2018 FIFA World Cup hosts, European champions Portugal and Concacaf champions Mexico in Pool A for the eight-team tournament in June-July, 2017.
"There are very little expectations on us with the giants of world football," said Hudson from Kazan. "We want to go to these games and cause an upset. We have three opportunities to do that and we have said from the beginning that we are not going there to take part and enjoy the tournament. We want to go and cause and upset and be strong, perform and make everyone at home very proud."
Meanwhile, FIFA World Cup champions Germany were grouped with Asian champions Australia, Confederations Cup first-timers and South American champions Chile and the still-to-be-determined African champions, which will be found in February.
Hudson said if he could have picked a group then Russia, Mexico and Portugal would have been it.
The All Whites will face Russia at St Petersburg Stadium at 6pm on June 17 (3am June 18 NZT), before facing Mexico at 9pm on June 21 (6am June 22 NZT) and Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal at 6pm on June 24 (3am June 25 NZT).
"To be opening the tournament against the hosts is going to be very special in front of a packed stadium. It will be against a team that we will enjoy playing against," he said.
He said coming up against El Tri again - after the All Whites played well in the 2-1 defeat in Nashville in October - would be great preparation for the 2017 Intercontinental Playoff should the All Whites qualify.
"Playing them twice is going to be a great test because it is very similar to what we will face in November if we get there. We know them very well. I have a huge amount of respect for their coach [Juan Carlos Osorio] and it will be a huge game. We will go into these games with confidence that if we do things correctly and we are at our very best then we have a chance of doing something against these teams."
And finally to take on the European Champions and World No 8 Portugal who boast one of the world's finest players in Cristiano Ronaldo will be incredible.
"It is such an amazing tournament and to be playing against the champions of Europe especially someone like Ronaldo it is a once in a lifetime opportunity for New Zealand and for our players. It is going to be a special occasion."
Hudson said his team will not be looking up to the superstars of world football and being spectators in the games.
"On one hand it is going to be amazing and of course we are excited to play against these teams and on the other hand the more realistic side is what we want to get out of it. We want to give them incredibly hard games."
Once the FIFA Confederations Cup draw was completed, all of the teams went into a jostling period trying to confirm friendlies in the lead up to the tournament.
Hudson said he, manager Rob Pickstock and NZ Football CEO Andy Martin had a number of conversations with the other teams in the lead up to the draw and they picked up those conversations with the nations who were not in their group.
"On top of these games we could have a couple of games that are equally as big as these three in the tournament which will make this period an incredible period for our preparation. In the next week or so we will, touch wood, have those games confirmed as well which puts us in an even stronger position."
Hudson said his team could not have asked for better preparation for their FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign.
"Not only is it an amazing tournament and great for the players and the fans back home to be a part of and to watch, even financially. To play these teams without this tournament would be financially through the roof and we wouldn't be able to afford it. So to play these games in a tournament like this is huge for our campaign," he said.
"We know that we are the smallest team there and no one is going to expect anything from us. People will expect us to be a turnover in the tournament and that will be great for us but we are going to be incredibly single-minded and make sure we go there with the purpose of causing an upset and doing something special."
Please find attached audio from an interview with All Whites coach Anthony Hudson on the team's FIFA Confederations Cup draw,
2017 FIFA CONFEDERATIONS CUP DRAW
Champion of Africa
All Whites games:
Russia at St Petersburg Stadium at 6pm on June 17 (3am June 18 NZT)
Mexico at 9pm on June 21 (6am June 22 NZT)
Portugal at 6pm on June 24 (3am June 25 NZT).