Oly-Whites improving despite South Korea loss

Last updated 07:28 15/07/2012
Adam Thomas
Reuters
IMPROVING: South Korea's Ji Dong-Won fights for the ball against New Zealand's Adam Thomas during their pre-Olympic friendly.

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The Oly-Whites are accentuating the positives despite suffering a 2-1 defeat to South Korea in Seoul in their penultimate warm-up match before the London Olympics.

New Zealand Olympic men's football team fell behind to a skilful back heel finish from Ji Dong-Won in the 18th minute but striker Shane Smeltz, one of three players over the age of 23 permitted in all men's Olympic squads, got the Kiwis level with a clinical finish in the 73rd minute from an Adam Thomas cross.

A second draw in four days - the Oly Whites drew 1-1 with Japan on Wednesday - loomed until Park Jong Woo 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 replaced the injured Jake Gleeson early in the second half.

New Zealand were lucky to draw with Japan and coach Neil Emblen believed the performance last night was a "definite improvement" on their earlier effort.

"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," he said.

"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."

The introduction of English-based All White Chris Wood caused problems for the Korean defence, allowing Smeltz to fill a deeper role flanked by Kosta Barbarouses and Marco Rojas, with Michael McGlinchey also dropping deeper in midfield in a 4-2-3-1 lineup.

All Whites defender 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 last night's match through injury and illness, respectively.

Emblen said Gleeson's groin injury would be assessed fully by team medical staff but early signs of recovery were promising. The Kiwis fly out to London on Monday and face the United Arab Emirates in their final warm-up match, in Austria on Friday NZT).

The Oly Whites open their Olympic campaign against Belarus in Coventry on July 27 (NZT). They also face Egypt and Brazil in Group C.

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- Fairfax Media

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