Chris Wood’s 17th-minute tap in, after Tommy Smith headed on Michael McGlinchey’s corner, won’t be the hardest goal he will score in his career but an Olympic goal at Old Trafford will be memorable nonetheless and could yet prove vital should New Zealand shock Brazil in their final group match at Newcastle’s St James’ Park on Wednesday and Belarus fail to beat Egypt.
A victory today would have given New Zealand a far easier task heading into the last match but Egypt drew level five minutes before halftime through the dangerous Mohamed Salah, who stayed onside by the narrowest of margins to meet Mohamed Aboutrika’s cross at the back post.
The Africans enjoyed the lion’s share of chances but brave and skilled defending, with Ryan Nelsen and Tommy Smith to the fore of a team effort on that front, along with a solid goalkeeping display from Michael O’Keeffe kept Egypt at bay.
Good chances also went begging from both sides in a frantic and open final 20 minutes as each chased three points in front of a crowd of over 50,000.
McGlinchey’s diving header was well saved by Ahmed Elshenawi, Shane Smeltz couldn’t quite free himself for a clean strike on goal a few minutes later and Emad Meteab missed a gilt-edged chance in the 90th minute to seal a win at the death.
New Zealand coach Neil Emblen said the performance didn’t quite live up to that against Belarus but praised his side’s commitment to the cause.
“I was hoping we could play a bit better in the first half,” Emblen said.
“Give Egypt credit, they had done their homework on us. They saw we had a lot of possession against Belarus and they looked like they wanted to stop that and so were very tight in midfield. They‘ve got exceptional attacking players that once they counter attack and win the ball high they can hurt you.
“Getting a goal in front gave us something to hang on to similar to Belarus the other night. They were always going to create chances but we’ve dug deep. Michael O’Keeffe has made some good saves, there was some last ditch defending and we kept ourselves in the game until halftime.
“After halftime we sat off them and tried to frustrate them a little bit. We didn’t press them at all and instead let their two centre backs have it and I think they did get a bit frustrated.
“They are still good enough to create chances but we were coming into the game a bit more by the time it opened up and those last 20 minutes were a humdinger and it could’ve gone either way.”
Brazil beat a spirited Belarus 3-1 in the late kick-off to book their place in the last eight and Emblen is still hopeful New Zealand could join them.
“The last match is such a prestigious game for our players to be a part of and we have to go into that believing we have a chance. If we enjoy it, have the game of our lives and Brazil have an off day then you never know.”
The Oly Whites’ final group match against Brazil kicks off at 1.30am on Thursday (NZT) with the Football Ferns also looking to grab a spot in the quarter-finals when they take on Cameroon on Wednesday morning at 6.45am (NZT).
Men’s Olympic Football Tournament
Egypt: 1 (Mohamed SALAH 40’)
New Zealand: 1 (Chris WOOD 17’)
Halftime: 1-1
Old Trafford, Manchester
July 29, 2012
Egypt: 1-Ahmed ELSHENAWI (GK), 2-Mahmoud ALAA ELDIN, 5-Mohamed ABOUTRIKA (captain), 6-Ahmed HEGAZI, 7-AHMED FATHI, 10-EMAD METEAB, 11-MOHAMED SALAH, 12-Eslam RAMADAN, 13-SALEH GOMAA, 14-HOSSAM HASSAN, 17-Mohamed EL NENY (16-Ahmed MAGDY 68’)
Substitutes not used: 3-ALY FATHY, 4-OMAR GABER, 8-Shehab AHMED, 9-Marwan MOHSEN, 15-Saadeldin SAAD, 18-Mohamed BASSAM (GK)
Cautions: 2-Mahmoud ALAA ELDIN 60’
Coach: Hany RAMZY
New Zealand: 18-Michael O’KEEFFE (GK), 2-Tim PAYNE, 3-Ian HOGG (14-James MUSA 63’), 5-Tommy SMITH, 6-Ryan NELSEN (captain), 7-Kosta BARBAROUSES, 8-Michael McGLINCHEY, 9-Shane SMELTZ, 10-Chris WOOD, 11-Marco ROJAS (15-Cameron HOWIESON 84’), 12-Adam THOMAS (13-Alex FENERIDIS 89’)
Substitutes not used: 1-Jake GLEESON (GK), 4-Tim MYERS, 16-Dakota LUCAS, 17-Adam MCGEORGE
Cautions: 9-Shane SMELTZ 81’
Coach: Neil EMBLEN
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Story courtesy of New Zealand Football.
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