Taking the field at Manchester United’s revered 75,000-seat home ground, dubbed the Theatre of Dreams by United and England great Bobby Charlton, is one of the perks of playing a football tournament in the United Kingdom.
New Zealand coach Neil Emblen, who never played at Old Trafford during a successful professional career in England, says the historic surrounds should inspire a little extra from his players as they chase a groundbreaking Olympic win.
“Any tiredness or fatigue in the legs will quickly be lost when they walk out on that ground,” Emblen said.
‘If you can’t get motivated just that little bit more when you play at Old Trafford then you probably shouldn’t be paying the game. It will be inspirational for both teams and there will be a big crowd in for a double header which will just add to the occasion.”
Regardless of the venue, which the Oly Whites got a brief taste of at a walkover the night before the match, the team are not short on motivation.
The side outplayed Belarus for periods in Coventry on Thursday but lost 1-0 and a win over Egypt would leave their qualification fate in their own hands heading into Wednesday’s final group match against medal favourites Brazil.
The Egyptians look to be a step up from the Eastern Europeans after fighting back from a three-goal deficit to lose 3-2 to a star-studded Brazil.
But Emblen believes the possession-based game his side employed with aplomb against Belarus is effective enough, albeit with some improvements, to get the result New Zealand need.
“I was happy with the way we played, although we need to be better at taking chances and could be even more adventurous when we’re on the ball. If we get that right and add to what we’re are already doing then I’m confident the performance will be good enough to produce a result.”
Emblen has no new injury concerns and while goalkeeper Jake Gleeson is getting closer to full fitness, the Portland Timbers custodian is not there yet and, given Michael O’Keeffe’s overall performance against Belarus and the likely need for all three outfield substitutes in the midday kick-off, the Oly Whites coach is unlikely to risk Gleeson.
The match kicks off at 11pm tonight New Zealand time and is live on Sky Sport 9.
Men’s Olympic Football Tournament
Egypt v New Zealand
Old Trafford, Manchester
July 29, Noon (11pm NZT)
Live on Sky Sport 9
Egypt: (from): 1-Ahmed ELSHENAWI (GK), 2-Mahmoud ALAA ELDIN, 3-ALY FATHY, 4-OMAR GABER, 5-Mohamed ABOUTRIKA, 6-Ahmed HEGAZI, 7-AHMED FATHI, 8-Shehab AHMED, 9-Marwan MOHSEN, 10-EMAD METEAB, 11-MOHAMED SALAH, 12-Eslam RAMADAN, 13-SALEH GOMAA, 14-HOSSAM HASSAN, 15-Saadeldin SAAD, 16-Ahmed MAGDY, 17-Mohamed EL NENY, 18-Mohamed BASSAM (GK)
Coach: Hany RAMZY
New Zealand: (from) 1-Jake GLEESON (GK), 2-Tim PAYNE, 3-Ian HOGG, 4-Tim MYERS, 5-Tommy SMITH, 6-Ryan NELSEN (captain), 7-Kosta BARBAROUSES, 8-Michael McGLINCHEY, 13-Alex FENERIDIS, 9-Shane SMELTZ, 10-Chris WOOD, 11-Marco ROJAS, 12-Adam THOMAS, 14-James MUSA, 15-Cameron HOWIESON, 16-Dakota LUCAS, 17-Adam MCGEORGE, 18-Michael O’KEEFFE (GK)
Coach: Neil EMBLEN
Story courtesy of New Zealand Football.
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