Gleeson's Olympic bid may be halted by injury
Wellington goalkeeper Jake Gleeson is in a race against time to be fit for the Olympics after suffering a groin injury in the Oly-Whites' 2-1 loss to Korea in Seoul on Saturday night.
New Zealand coach Neil Emblen said early signs of recovery were “promising", but Gleeson would be assessed fully by team medical staff before the team flies out today to London. They face the United Arab Emirates in their final warmup match in Austria on Friday.
But, if Gleeson does not recover, Emblen knows he has an able deputy in Michael O'Keeffe, who dived to his right to brilliantly deflect a goalbound point-blank range shot by Kim Bo-Kyung in injury time.
The Oly-Whites fell behind to a skilful back heel finish from Ji Dong-Won in the 18th minute but 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' cross.
Park Jong Woo spared Korea's blushes when he took a long pass on his chest, turned his man and slotted a shot past O'Keeffe in the 83rd minute.
But the Oly-Whites, who drew 1-1 with Japan last Wednesday, looked more competitive with West Bromwich Albion's Chris Wood using his strength, size and skill to telling effect as the lone striker in front of Smeltz.
"It was a definite improvement on Japan," Emblen said. "South Korea had their share of chances and could have punished us, but we asked the players to be braver on the ball and we created more chances [on Saturday night].
"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."
But New Zealand women's coach Tony Readings admitted the Football Ferns were “below par" in their Olympic warmup defeat to Canada at the Matchworld Women's Cup tournament in Chatel-St Denis, Switzerland, early yesterday.
The Canadians - ranked seventh in the world to New Zealand's 23rd - scored through Diana Matheson's superb chip in the 30th minute and an early second-half strike to captain Christine Sinclair for her 136th international goal.
Midfield turnovers led to both goals and, although Amber Hearn and Annalie Longo hit the crossbar for New Zealand, Readings conceded Canada - coached by his Ferns predecessor John Herdman - “were the better team and deserved to win".
“It was a below par Football Ferns performance and nowhere near what we're capable of.
“We'll learn a lot from this and I'd rather do that now than at the Olympics.
“We've been on a run of consistent performances against teams ranked higher than us [China and Australia] so this is a blip. The good thing is we play Colombia [on Wednesday] and have the chance to regain momentum."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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