Junior All Whites coach Des Buckingham has revealed he has been drawing from Māori traditions to help create team culture - and it's playing a big role in their success at the World Cup.
The former Wellington Phoenix co-coach returned to New Zealand last year after a stint with Stoke City to take over the under-20s side, who are currently two-from-two at the World Cup.
He told Radio New Zealand he has been driving a team-first, collective approach inspired by Māoridom - the idea coming to him while he was in a coaching programme with High Performance Sport New Zealand.
"I really liked the Māori welcome that was held as a part of my induction, which brought eleven relative strangers together very quickly."
So Buckingham took the approach, along with some cultural traditions and Māori heritage, to his new squad.
"Knowing that I was about to have 21 players coming together from nine or ten different environments, I really thought it would help create an identity for us and make it clear for the players about what we're trying to do. I also thought it was important to relate that identity back to New Zealand."
The Junior All Whites qualified for the knockout stages for the third consecutive time yesterday after they earned a shock 2-0 victory over Norway - their first ever win against a European side at that level of competition.
It followed on from their 5-0 win in their opening match against Honduras, meaning the team is guaranteed a spot in the round of 16 with their side the only thing left to determine against fellow undefeated Group C nation, Uruguay.
Buckingham told Radio New Zealand they've been building both on and off the field in Poland.
"What we've been trying to build over the last month, it's very much about our identity, who we are, our culture and what that looks like and for me that's important for every player in the squad," Buckingham said.
"That's been a big feel of what we've been doing here the past couple of weeks, individual performances are great but again it's more about the team and how we perform together that has been the real driving key to what we do."
The Junior All Whites play Uruguay on Friday at 4am NZT.