Wanganui soccer prospect James Musa reckons he has learnt a few new tricks from an old dog as he prepares to step out on the world stage.
The talented 19-year-old, who flew out yesterday for the under-20 World Cup in Colombia with the rest of the Junior All Whites, has been plying his trade in Auckland.
Keen to work on his game between New Zealand duties, centre-back Musa signed on for Waitakere City in the Northern Region premier league and found himself alongside a player who had done service in a more renowned soccer premier league.
He formed a defensive combination with Neil Emblen, who played in the English Premier League with Crystal Palace and Wolves and was once transferred for £2 million ($3.8 million).
"He's still such a good player and it was a great experience playing with him," said Musa.
"Neil's played at the level that everyone wants to get to, so it was a good learning experience for me."
Musa stayed with Emblen while in Auckland - and even helped the veteran celebrate his 40th birthday. On the field, his record at Waitakere looks good - played four, won four.
The Junior All Whites squad for the sporting showpiece was officially named eight days ago but the Wanganui youngster wasn't too nervous about selection.
"I was happy with how I played in the Suwon Cup in Korea and in the World Cup qualifying games, so I expected to be picked."
He has been training three times a week with the NZ squad in Auckland, once a week with Waitakere and - not short on dedication to his chosen career - doing two hours a day practising technique either on his own or with a pal.
"I am happy with where I'm at with my game and there's no real apprehension about the World Cup. I have been nervous before big games in the past but now I just feel excited. I can't wait to get out there."
First there was a flying visit to the family home in Wanganui at the weekend.
"It was really to say hello and goodbye ... but mum cooked me a really good dinner."
Then there was a final match on Sunday at North Harbour stadium against his old mates from the Wellington Phoenix, where he played a handful of games last season.
The Junior All Whites lost 2-1 but for Musa, who was singled out as a standout in the under-20s effort, it was all part of his football education.
"It's professionals against amateurs, and you can't beat playing seasoned professionals and experienced A League players."
Junior All Whites coach Chris Milicich was happy with the run out against Phoenix, saying: "We played 90 minutes of high intensity football, and we closed them down from start to finish and made it difficult for them to do what they wanted.
"In the last 15 minutes we had a decent share of the game and we should have put some chances away."
En route to Colombia, the Junior All Whites stop off in Los Angeles for a couple of games. They are playing United Soccer League sides Southern California and Ventura County.
Then it's World Cup group games against Cameroon on July 31, Uruguay on August 3, and Portugal on August 6.