DES Buckingham steps on to the global stage tonight with one goal in mind – breaking new ground with New Zealand.

The former Oxford United coach, from Cowley, is the only Englishman in charge of a team at the Under 20 World Cup in Poland.

Having guided the Junior All Whites to victory at the Oceania qualifying tournament last summer, they begin the campaign against Honduras in Lublin this evening.

With group games against Norway on Monday and Uruguay next Thursday to follow, starting on the front foot will be crucial for a side with odds of 1,000-1 to win the title.

“Since 2007 we’ve won two games out of 17 in the competition, which is probably what’s reflected in those odds,” he told the Oxford Mail from their training camp in Gniewino.

“We know it’s a tough task but our goal is to win the first game.

“If we do that it sets us up nicely for the next two and approach it the way we want, rather than having to chase.

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“The furthest this group has got is to the last-16.

“If we can get out of the group and win that next game we’ve created our own kind of history.

“We’ve got the ability to compete with the three teams in our group and if we believe in that we’ll be OK.”

If they fall short, it will not be down to a lack of preparation.

Buckingham’s squad flew in more than a fortnight ago and have warmed up with a 1-1 draw against Korea and a 3-1 victory over Mexico.

Since qualifying, the 34-year-old – the youngest head coach at the tournament – has clocked up more than 120,000 miles taking 60 flights to keep track of his players.

He said: “I rent a place in Auckland and I think I’ve stayed in it 30 per cent of the time in the last few months.”

Switching away from a club focus, which started in United’s academy as a teenager, to the different demands of an international role has been a challenge.

But since the squad have lined up it has been back to what he knows best.

Buckingham said: “All the roles I’ve had before have been day-to-day jobs.

“This is a change, where maybe the management of relationships between yourself and clubs becomes more important.

“It’s been nice to get back into the swing of coaching. I’m just enjoying being back on the grass.

“It puts a spring back in your step.”

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It should be just the start.

In September, Buckingham and most of the under 20 squad will attempt to secure qualification for next year’s Olympic Games.

Beyond that, he has an assistant’s role with the senior side as they set sights on reaching the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

He said: “I started coaching at Oxford when I was 17, so I’ve been coaching for 17 years now.

“It’s been a long journey and hopefully it’s nowhere near finished, but it’s been a really exciting one.”