The WPSS U14 group depart for China on Wednesday 25th April to take their place in the 7th annual Codion Cup, Jiansu 2018.

Powered by tour sponsor Yashili the WPSS side will compete in the international event featuring 12 teams from 12 countries including Cruzerio from Brazil and Grenada from Spain.

The 10 day tour is the perfect opportunity for the players to not only experience a competitive international tour environment but also to live as young professionals for the tour period as full time footballers.

Regular tour updates will be posted right here and you can also follow the tour on social media channels Facebook and Instagram.

#WPSSONTOUR

Day 1

The WPSS U14 has arrived safely in China as the group begin their 10 day adventure at the Codion Cup 2018.

The squad was picked up at Pudong airport on Thursday morning by tournament hosts Codion United in their club bus and driven a couple of hours to the teams home for the next 10 days at the Codion Youth Football Base, Jiansu.

The boys have been welcomed by a seriously impressive football facility. Players and staff are in a huge player accomodation block with WPSS being the first team to arrive with the other teams arriving to fill the floors in the days to come.

After settling in the players were taken on a tour of the tournament facility before lunch in the players restaurant.

The WPSS staff spent the afternoon setting the tone for the tour in a self management meeting where the players learnt expectations for their off the field performance that we will be worked hard on over the next 10 days.

Some tired bodies will sleep well tonight after the team dinner.

Day 2

The WPSS U14 squad has hit the grass for the first time on the China tour 2018. The team has trained at the tournament venue and home of Codion United at the Codion Youth Football Base.

In hot conditions the group was put through their paces ahead of the first competitive match action tomorrow when the boys representing WPSS will face host club Codion United U14 in a warm up game as preparations continue.

The afternoon was spent back at the impressive football facility as the players and staff toured the pitches watching all the different levels of the Codion United Academy train from U9 through to U17.

Codion United are scouting the top talent from around China and bringing them in full time where players live and board. This process is starting with players as young as 8 years old who are leaving their families in order to start working hard on their football dreams.

Day 3

The WPSS U14 have passed the first test on tour with a warm up victory against the host club Codion United.

Preparation for the match was completed this morning as the players trained lightly ahead of the afternoon clash with the Chinese outfit.

On another hot day that saw temperatures of 26 degrees celcius at kick off the WPSS side made a strong start and dominated the early proceedings with Shore Harada and Moh Reynolds both proving more than a handful for the opposition defence.

Dangerous with the ball going forward and disciplined out of possession the WPSS boys began to frustrate the hosts who had to resort to a direct style of play given that they were finding it difficult to break down the WPSS defensive organisation.

Codion had their moments in the first half, despite not having a wealth of possession they picked their moments to make quick counter attacks and some last ditch defending on a couple of occasions kept them at bay.

WPSS always looked the most likely to break the dead lock however and the goal finally arrived in the 20th minute. Mason Barlow who was forward from centre back for a set piece reacted quickest to a second ball in the box and lobbed the on rushing keeper with a smart cushioned header to open the scoring on 20 minutes.

1 nil up at the break and a solid first half showing in trying conditions had the WPSS boys in good spirits and looking forward to what was to come.

Codion came out determined in the second half and applied pressure from the restart searching for the equaliser. It took only 5 minutes to come and another set piece proving effective, 1 all and game on!

Back came the boys from WPSS again who reacted well to the set back and it only took 3 minutes to get ahead in the game again. Fergus Gillion spotted Moh Reynolds and slid a perfect ball into his path to put the striker in one on one. Reynolds made no mistake and powered his shot through the goal keeper to restore the 1 goal lead.

Chances fell to Shore Harada and Reynolds again but the Chinese survived  and the game then went end to end in what was a very competitive match that neither team took a backward step from.

The Codion keeper saved well from Rhys Davies late on in what was the last telling action of a fast paced game.

2 – 1 to WPSS and a great shot of confidence going into the event.

Day 4

The draw for the 7th annual Codion Cup was made today and the matches are now set for an exciting week of U14 tournament football.

WPSS was drawn into group A which consists of host club Codion United A team, Granada (Spain), Luch – Energia (Russia), OAZ Football Academy (Thailand) and Kyrgyzstan Football Centre.

Monday will see the WPSS side in action twice with the opening game of the tournament against the Chinese hosts at 9 am local time followed by a huge test against Spanish club Granada at 3 pm local time.

The side completed its preparation both in the classroom and on the pitch this afternoon before unwinding and relaxing at the official tournament welcome dinner for all tournament teams and officials.

Chinese cultural performances in music and dance were accompanied by a welcome performance from each competing team.

The WPSS boys did not disappoint with a sharp haka as well as a speech made in Chinese by the tour captain Moh Reynolds.

Day 5

The Codion Cup is officially open after the opening ceremony this morning saw all teams gather for speeches from government officials and dignitaries as well as traditional Chinese performances.

The WPSS boys played the opening game of the tournament against the tournament host club and A team of Codion United. The spotlight was on and the players not only had the hot humid conditions to contend with but also a lot of attention from supporters and public around the field.

The game started brightly with WPSS not for the first time on this tour displaying great maturity and composure off the ball and creating dangerous situations with the ball. Opportunities for our Chinese hosts were limited to counter attacks and after a couple of close shaves with last ditch defending in the WPSS penalty area. A 10th minute a lapse of concentration proved costly for the WPSS boys as Codion launched a counter that got in behind the back 4 with a well taken goal from an acute angle.

WPSS came again and straight away took the game by the scruff of the neck again with the reminder of the half basically played camped inside the Codion half. Despite a number of half chances and scrambles in front of the Chinese goal the ball refused to go in and the WPSS U14 trailed at half time.

WPSS was on top in the first half but the second half can only be described as almost total domination.

The game was once again played in the Codion half with the Chinese team once again restricted to counter attack opportunities that this time were well dealt with by the WPSS defence well marshalled by a superb Mason Barlow.

As the half wore on the pressure mounted on Codions goal and chance after chance was cleared as the ball once again did not want to cross the line.

The last 10 minutes seemed really saw WPSS crank up the heat with set piece after set piece and the feeling that the goal just had to come.

Somehow … it didn’t!

The game came to a close with 2 big chances for the equaliser right at the death that once again ended in goal mouth scrambles and the ball squirming to safety for the Chinese.

A tough result to swallow but a great spirited performance from the WPSS boys who deserved more from a game that taught the harshest of lessons at this level.

The Chinese took their chance and the WPSS boys couldn’t convert and this was the difference between 3 points and a first up blank.

Great experience and a performance to be proud of.

As if the competition wasn’t hot enough it got even hotter this afternoon in the form of La Liga side Granada from Spain.

A huge test for the players after an intense encounter in the mornings opening fixture.

A game plan focused on patience, organisation and setting up to counter attack was delivered admirably by the boys against our illustrious opponents.

WPSS goal keeper Nathan Garrow may have been called on to make a couple of outstanding saves but the game in the first half was well controlled even though Granada had the lions share of possession. The plan nearly worked to perfection after 15 minutes when a WPSS counter attack lead to an error in judgement from the Granda keeper and the best chance of the game so far fell to Lucca Sullivan. Wide and on the angle Sullivan hit the ball sweetly only to see it just dip over the crossbar with the keeper well beaten.

20 minutes in and the feeling was that the Spaniards were slowly becoming frustrated with the WPSS side performing with maturity.

The harshest of lessons were learnt in a 2 minute burst and 2 weak passages of play were pounced upon and punished in the blink of an eye. With 22 minutes gone the La Liga side were now 2 goals to the good. Tough on the WPSS boys but a reminder of how brutal this level is.

Tweaks to personnel and tactics were made at half time and the rhythm of the game was altered with the WPSS boys giving it a really good nudge.

Granada were able to find the net on 2 more occasions in the second half but chances were also created at the other end with Shore Harada causing problems for the Spanish down the left hand side and creating several openings for his team mates.

Will Mendoza had 1 shot blocked and another saved, Moh Reynolds made a nuisance of himself on more than 1 occasion and Artur Semmke Neto came close from a clever free kick that fizzed past a relieved goal keepers near post.

The 4 nil score line does not reflect the effort made by the young Kiwi’s in another game that highlighted how the smallest of errors and misjudgements can cost you so dearly at the end of the game.

Day 6

WPSS has recorded its first win in Group A after a spirited performance against the U14 national football centre of Krygstan.

Krygstan came into this mornings game full of confidence after they picked up maximum points on day 1 in group A yesterday with wins over both Russia and Thailand.

The WPSS players made a quick start and quickly got Shore Harada in behind the KZG back line on the left hand side whose cut back was intercepted with Moh Reynolds all alone in the middle ready to pounce. KZG did not heed the early warning and in almost the next attack the WPSS boys got Harada away again and this time he made no mistake with delivery putting the ball on a plate for the unmarked Reynolds to expertly smash the ball into the far top corner from around 10 yards. 1 nil WPSS after 2 minutes.

KZG rallied and showed great character to come back into the game an extremely direct style of football proving a great test for the WPSS back 4 and goal keeper to manage and deal with.

The aerial barrage was repelled well and with the ball WPSS continued to create opportunities to extend the lead.

The best chance to do so fell to captain Moh Reynolds who was played in behind the centre backs by a clever through ball from Liam Quinn. Reynolds round the keeper well with his first touch but could only find the side netting with his finish and KZG lived to fight another day.

Late in the half good work by Lucca Sullivan to feed the impressive Will Mendoza drew the very best out of the KZG keeper who made a great save to deny the WPSS midfielder a spectacular goal.

The second half was an intense affair with the KZG side coming with real passion to try and get themselves back into the contest. Their direct approach was again well managed by the WPSS players who continued to look dangerous going forward. Real chances were few and far between in the second half as the game became more physical and our opposition became more desperate.

The WPSS players showed great togetherness to see the game out against a difficult opponent to play against.

3 well deserved points and the first WPSS victory of the Codion Cup 2018.

Russian side FC Luch – Energiya were the opposition for the second game of the day.

An impressive thunder storm before kickoff did not dampen the spirits of the WPSS side who after this mornings result found themselves back in the reckoning for a semi final birth.

Once again the players came flying out of the blocks and just like the mornings fixture went ahead very early.

De ja vu and that man again, Moh Reynolds smacked the ball across the Russian goal keeper and into the far corner of the net in just the 3rd minute after he showed great pace to collect the ball and out pace the FC Luch defence, 1 nil and confidence sky high.

Despite all their best efforts the WPSS side could not add to the score line in the first half as time after time the final pass or bit of quality eluded the players when you sensed the next goal was coming.

There was a disappointed feeling in the group at half time despite the lead as the side felt that they had not rewarded their dominance with the goals that would and should have already made the game safe.

With clear minds the second half began just as the first half did. Only 3 minutes had passed when Artur Semmke Neto played a neat short corner routine to Will Mendoza who opened up his first touch before firing a shot across the goal and into the far top corner. 2 nil and maybe the goals would now flow?

Similar to the first half once again the game entered a scrappy period with the team from FC Luch refusing to lie down without a fight and the WPSS players struggling to find a consistency to their play.

In the moments that the side did get it right it was great to watch and on 46 minutes Shore Harada was rewarded for a tournament of tireless work when he received the ball in the Russian penalty area turned and fired low into the bottom corner to secure the points and push the scoreline out to 4 nil.

Once again there was plenty of intent and want to add to the total but it was the Russians who had the last scoring action of the game when a rare attack saw a scramble and an own goal, giving the FC Luch team a consolation goal that their players endeavour was hard to argue they didn’t deserve at the end of the match.

2 wins from 2 and 6 valuable points that has given the WPSS U14 side a chance for the semi finals.

Day 7

The final action of group A was played out this morning as the WPSS U14 side took on the OAZ Academy from Thailand looking for the win that would see them stay in semi final reckoning.

In overcast and very slightly cooler conditions an uncharacteristic slow start saw OAZ handed a chance almost directly from the kick off with Mason Barlow having to make a superb goal line clearance to make sure an early goal was not conceded.

WPSS reacted well to the scare and got on the front foot. A couple of half chances were created before captain Moh Reynolds persistence paid off on 8 minutes, refusing to give up on a ball that seemed destined to get away from him he fought well to hook the ball into the net from the ground after challenging with the OAZ goal keeper.

The lead did not last long however and 2 minutes later a lapse at the back saw the Thailand side in on goal and no mistake was made to level the scores up.

1 all and game on.

The rest of the first half was a very good even game of football with both sides having their moments and patches of dominance.

1 all at half time was a fair reflection of the game but the WPSS players were a little bit guilty of letting frustration get the better of them at times and the half time break was a welcome period to cool the heads and restore calm ahead of a great second half challenge.

The boys took the message on board superbly and produced perhaps their best half of football on tour so far.

The second half was one way traffic as the players completely took control of proceedings with an impressive display of smart football and a ruthlessness that took the game away from the OAZ players.

Good chances failed to find the back of the net before a neat move saw the ball find its way to Will Mendoza in the OAZ penalty area who calmly took it down on his chest before firing home to make the score 2 – 1 in the 41st minute.

7 minutes later a quick and incisive counter attack put Moh Reynolds in on goal who was brought down by the onrushing goal keeper and a penalty kick was correctly awarded. Rhys Davies stepped up to score from the spot only for the referee to award a retake after penalising WPSS for encroachment. Davies was unfazed and stepped up again to place the ball in the opposite corner with the keeper going the wrong way.

3 – 1 and the football was flowing now with some really good stuff to watch and everyone enjoying themselves.

A 4th goal arrived when the dangerous Shore Harada slammed the ball into the far bottom corner after another great move from the WPSS side in the 55th minute of play.

That was to be the end of the scoring as the final whistle blew on group A and confirmed a 3rd place finish out of 6 teams.

Host club Codion United drew their game and that point was enough to finish 1 point ahead of the WPSS boys in second place.

WPSS now go into a play off series for places 5 – 8 in the 12 team tournament.

Day 8

Rest day here at the Codion Cup with the players getting a sightseeing trip and cultural experience visiting the Langsham Temple and surrounding grounds.

Back at the tournament base in the afternoon the hosts put on a dumpling making lesson for all players.

Shore Harada was voted best WPSS dumpling maker and represented the U14 in the team competition.

His efforts were judged well and won a prize for the quality of his handy work!

Day 9

The Codion Cup has entered the play off stages with WPSS up against Polish side Korona Kielce in the first play off for the boys from New Zealand.

Korona are a big strong team and this was to prove a massive test for the WPSS players on another extremely hot match day here at the tournament base.

The game began evenly with both teams settling into their work. A good raid by WPSS in the 8th minute opened up the Korona defence and the best chance of the match so far fell to Shore Harada who did well to streak behind his marker and zero in on goal from the left hand side. Harada drew the keeper and cooly tried a dinked finish that was executed well but for an excellent save from the opposition goal keeper.

A free kick conceded on 10 minutes in a wide position by the WPSS defence was then given the harshest punishment as the kick flew into the top corner of the net from distance. 1 nil was quickly 2 nil as the Polish side broke through and the ball was expertly dispatched at the near post off a neat cut back.

To the players credit they knuckled down and half time was signalled without any further addition to the score board and a chance to freshen up the team through the introduction of 4 new faces.

The changes worked well with a much needed energy injected into the side and the game was a much more even encounter with the WPSS players doing well to now restrict the chances on their own goal and look increasingly dangerous with the ball.

The game was very even and if anything you felt WPSS may be the favourite to score next and haul themselves back in the game.

As has happened so often on this tour however any mistake is punished and a mistake from a routine set piece gifted the Korona team a third goal and with it the game with 10 minutes played in the second half.

It was cruel on the WPSS team who had battled so well to get back in the game.

The goal knocked the stuffing out of the boys and 2 late goals followed to blow the score out as the players tired both mentally and physically.

Another top lesson for the players and a game against a very solid group of young men who never took a backward step.

Day 10

Saturday morning saw the WPSS boys face their final challenge of the tour facing the Krygstan Football federation in the play off game for places 7th and 8th in this 12 team international tournament.

Krygstan have had a very successful campaign proving more than a match for everyone they have faced so far, performing with great heart, spirit and skill throughout the event they are a very difficult opponent.

The first half was an excellent game of football and the WPSS side produced a very good performance, playing good football from the first whistle right through to the close of the half.

Despite the quality of the football being played there were surprisingly very few chances to score in the first half.

The best chance of the half fell to Lucca Sullivan mid way through the period with the goal keeper saving well low to his right after a good move from the WPSS players.

As the half wore on WPSS gained more and more control and their attractive performance and dominance was rewarded in the final minute of the half.

Centre back Mason Barlow ventured forward for a late set piece and rose highest to brilliantly flick his header over the keeper and crash the ball into the back of the net.

A superb first half performance and a 1 nil lead to now take into the second half.

The players were warned at half time that even though the game was well under control that the next goal was crucial, unfortunately the second half did not start to the script and the equaliser was conceded directly from a free kick just 1 minute in.

The first half was a great football spectacle and the second half entertained for a host of other reasons.

Disappointed to concede but not put off the task at hand the WPSS U14 responded quickly and Shore Harada went close to restoring the lead immediately when he raced away but was denied in a one on one situation with only the keeper to beat.

From that point the game was very tight and intense with neither team giving an inch. As the tension grew the tackles got tougher and some curious refereeing interpretations lead to tempers flaring and Kyrgstan found themselves a staff member down when one of the coaching staff was sent off for dissent.

This attitude filtered through to his players on the pitch and after a few cautions the referee sent off 2 of the Kyrgstan players late on to leave the side with 9 players at the final whistle.

With no extra time scheduled the game went straight to a penalty shoot out to decide who would finish 7th at the 7th annual Codion Cup 2018.

There were a lot of tired bodies on the pitch after completing 7 games in 6 days but impressively the players from both sides produced a high quality shoot out.

Nathan Garrow made 2 big saves in the shoot out to take the victory for WPSS 7 – 6 on penalty kicks and clinch a very respectable finish at this top international event.