Improved Oly-Whites ready to test Brazil

Tommy Smith of New Zealand and Emad Meteab of Egypt battle for the ball.
Tommy Smith of New Zealand and Emad Meteab of Egypt battle for the ball.
Chris Wood of New Zealand celebrates his goal against Egypt.
Chris Wood of New Zealand celebrates his goal against Egypt.
Tommy Smith of New Zealand and Emad Meteab of Egypt battle for the ball.
Tommy Smith of New Zealand and Emad Meteab of Egypt battle for the ball.
Mohamed Salah of Egypt celebrates scoring his goal against New Zealand.
Mohamed Salah of Egypt celebrates scoring his goal against New Zealand.
Dejected New Zealand faces after Belarus score the game's only goal just before halftime in their group match at the London Olympics.
Dejected New Zealand faces after Belarus score the game's only goal just before halftime in their group match at the London Olympics.
New Zealand's Tommy Smith heads the ball during the side's loss to Belarus at the London Olympics.
New Zealand's Tommy Smith heads the ball during the side's loss to Belarus at the London Olympics.
New Zealand's Chris Wood attacks during the side's loss to Belarus at the London Olympics.
New Zealand's Chris Wood attacks during the side's loss to Belarus at the London Olympics.
Belarus's Dmitry Baga and New Zealand's Kosta Barbarouses battle for the ball during NZ's loss to Belarus at the London Olympics.
Belarus's Dmitry Baga and New Zealand's Kosta Barbarouses battle for the ball during NZ's loss to Belarus at the London Olympics.
New Zealand's Ian Hogg is airborne trying to keep the ball in play during his team's loss to Belarus at the London Olympics.
New Zealand's Ian Hogg is airborne trying to keep the ball in play during his team's loss to Belarus at the London Olympics.
New Zealand supporters in the crowd during their team's loss to Belarus at the London Olympics.
New Zealand supporters in the crowd during their team's loss to Belarus at the London Olympics.
New Zealand's Ryan Nelsen questions referee Bakary Gassama during his team's loss  to Belarus at the London Olympics.
New Zealand's Ryan Nelsen questions referee Bakary Gassama during his team's loss to Belarus at the London Olympics.

Form midfielder Kosta Barbarouses insists the Oly-Whites have made major strides since their last humbling by Brazil at the Olympic Games tournament.

New Zealand meet Brazil in Newcastle on Thursday, needing victory to advance to the quarterfinals.

The enormity of their task is reflected in the last result between the two nations at Olympic level. Brazil thrashed New Zealand 5-0 at the Beijing tournament in 2008.

IMPROVED ATTACK: New Zealand's Marco Rojas and Kosta Barbarouses listen to the national anthem.
IMPROVED ATTACK: New Zealand's Marco Rojas and Kosta Barbarouses listen to the national anthem.

But Barbarouses, who narrowly missed selection for Beijing after scoring four goals in the qualifying rounds, believes the New Zealand under-23 team has improved markedly since 2008.

"[Brazil] are always favourite, but I think we've come a long way since then. [But] they've always got that unpredictability so we will see what happens.''

Barbarouses said the Oly-Whites would have to "grind through more than we did'' in the 1-1 draw with Egypt on Monday morning, "and just hope for the best.''

The 22-year-old Barbarouses has been one of the Oly-Whites' best at the Olympic tournament. He was sharp on attack against Egypt but also impressed with his cover defence down the left flank, where he helped out fullback Ian Hogg counter the attacking threat posed by overlapping right back Ahmed Fathi.

Barbarouses has benefited from his professional experience at Brisbane Roar and in Russia before negotiating his latest move to Greek club Panathinaikos.

Oly-Whites captain Ryan Nelsen has hailed Barbarouses' performances against Belarus and Egypt.

"He's been fantastic [in games and] in training he's been brilliant,'' Nelsen said.  "He's an older guy in the team now, even though he's pretty young.

"His performances in both games have been amazing. He's improving e very years as a player since I've known him as a young kid to now. He's matured and he's got a big future.''

Barbarouses and Rojas gave the Oly-Whites vital width on the flanks and coach Neil Emblen believes his two wingers can trouble any defence.

Fairfax Media