July 14, 2012
AUCKLAND –The New Zealand Olympic men’s football team have been beaten by Korea Republic 2-1 in Seoul on Saturday night but showed plenty of positives signs in the second of three warm ups for London.
The Oly Whites fell behind to a skilful backheel finish from Park Chu-Young in the 18th minute but overage striker Shane Smeltz restored parity with a clinical finish through the legs of a defender and the goalkeeper in the 73rd minute from Adam Thomas’s cross.
A second draw in four days – the Oly Whites drew 1-1 with Japan on Wednesday night – looked on the cards until Nam Tae-Hee drifted through a flat New Zealand defence, took a long pass on his chest, turned his man and slotted the ball past Michael O’Keeffe who impressed after replacing injured Jake Gleeson early in the second half.
Despite the defeat, it was a vastly improved showing from the match in Tokyo, with the introduction of Chris Wood in to the line up proving a handful for the Korean defence and allowing Smeltz to fill a deeper role flanked by Kosta Barbarouses and Marco Rojas, with Michael McGlinchey also dropping deeper in midfield.
Tommy Smith, in England resting a hamstring strain, will be the last of the nine players not involved in the qualifying campaign to join the side when they meet up in London while Adam McGeorge and Tim Myers also missed tonight’s match through injury and illness respectively.
There were late chances for the home side including a free kick which hit the post and a close range Kim Bo-Kyung shot in injury time that O’Keefe incredibly deflected over the bar with a strong right hand.
However, New Zealand coach Neil Emblen was pleased with the signs of progress as his side look to make up for lost time in their Olympic build-up.
“It was a definite improvement on Japan,” Emblen said.
“South Korea had their share of chances and could’ve punished us, but we asked the players to be braver on the ball and we created more chances tonight.
“Korea were causing us trouble out wide but we addressed that at halftime and went toe to toe with them for a long period in the second half.
“There’s still plenty to work on but there was some positive things out there and we just need to hang on to those while we continue to improve those other areas.
Emblen said Gleeson’s groin injury would be assessed fully by team medical staff but early signs of recovery were promising. The team fly out to London on Monday and face UAE in their final warm up match in Austria on Friday (NZT).
The Oly Whites open their Olympic campaign against Belarus in Coventry on July 26, one day before the London 2012 opening ceremony. They also face Egypt and Brazil in Group C.
Olympic build up
New Zealand U-23 1 (Shane SMELTZ 73’)
Korea Republic U-23 2 (PARK Chu Young 18’, NAM Tae-HEE 83’)
Seoul World Cup Stadium
Seoul, South Korea
New Zealand: 1-Jake GLEESON (GK / 18-Michael O'KEEFFE 58’), 3-Ian HOGG, 6-Ryan NELSEN (Captain), 7-Kosta BARBAROUSES, 8-Michael McGLINCHEY, 9-Shane SMELTZ (15-Cameron HOWIESON 80’), 10-Chris WOOD (16-Dakota LUCAS 84’), 11-Marco ROJAS, 12-Adam THOMAS, 13-Alex FENERIDIS (2-Tim PAYNE 65’), 14-James MUSA,
Substitutes not used: 4-Tim MYERS, 17-Adam McGEORGE.
Coach: Neil EMBLEN
Cautions: 3-Ian HOGG 39’, 7-Kosta BARBAROUSES 51’, 10-Chris WOOD 75’