The New Zealand men’s Olympic football team are hoping Manchester’s iconic Old Trafford stadium can be their own Theatre of Dreams when they take on Egypt in a crucial Group C match tonight.
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 playing the game.
“It’ll be inspirational for both teams and there’ll 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 in Coventry on Thursday but lost 0-1 but 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 2-3 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.
“It’ll be more of the same from us.”
“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, and create some more overloads and two-v-ones in certain areas.
“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 fitness 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 kickoff, the Oly Whites coach is unlikely to risk Gleeson.
The match kicks off at 11pm tonight 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