Players to watch: Jake Gleeson, Ian Hogg, Marco Rojas
Possible over-aged stars: Ryan Nelsen, Winston Reid, Shane Smeltz
Past record: 0 medals, 1 appearance
New Zealand, like Belarus, are another team who seemingly have no hope of getting out of the group stages.
However, if the “Oly Whites” are to pull off a miracle, it’ll probably be down to over-aged star and Tottenham Hotspur centre-back Ryan Nelsen, who will captain the side this summer.
Well, it’d be down to him and upcoming goalkeeping star Jake Gleeson, the 21-year-old Portland Timbers shot-stopper who’s currently proving himself as one of the ideal talents in Major League Soccer right now, and previously had trials at Manchester United and Everton.
And semi-professional defender Ian Hogg might also play a role, given that he was an ever-present as New Zealand qualified for the Olympics, winning the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) U23 Championship, commonly known as the OFC Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
Defensive duties and a catenaccio style of play are key for the Oly Whites, that was proven in qualifying as they conceded just two goals in their four matches, grinding out 1-0 wins over Papa New Guinea and Fiji, beating Vanuata 3-2 and thrashing Tonga 10-0.
With Australia not taking part in the event, it’s clear that New Zealand were always going to have too much quality not to make it to the Olympics.
However, they most likely will not have the quality to make it any further than the group stages.
After all, considering this team struggled to victory against Vanuatu, Papa New Guinea and Fiji, then what hope do they have of beating Egypt or Brazil?
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