The New Zealand Olympic mens football team have been beaten by Korea Republic 2-1 in Seoul on Saturday night but showed plenty of positives signs in the second of three warm ups for London.
The Oly Whites fell behind to a skilful back heel finish from Ji Dong-Won in the 18th minute but overage striker Shane Smeltz restored parity with a clinical finish through the legs of a defender and the goalkeeper in the 73rd minute from Adam Thomass cross.
A second draw in four days the Oly Whites drew 1-1 with Japan on Wednesday night looked on the cards until Park Jong Woo drifted through a flat New Zealand defence, took a long pass on his chest, turned his man and slotted the ball past Michael OKeeffe who impressed after replacing Jake Gleeson early in the second half.
Despite the defeat, it was a vastly improved showing from the match in Tokyo, with the introduction of Chris Wood in to the line up proving a handful for the Korean defence and allowing Smeltz to fill a deeper role flanked by Kosta Barbarouses and Marco Rojas, with Michael McGlinchey also dropping deeper in midfield.
Tommy Smith, in England resting a hamstring strain, will be the last of the nine players not involved in the qualifying campaign to join the side when they meet up in London while Adam McGeorge and Tim Myers also missed tonights match through injury and illness respectively.
There were late chances for the home side including a free kick which hit the post and a close range Kim Bo-Kyung shot in injury time that OKeefe incredibly deflected over the bar with a strong right hand.
However, New Zealand coach Neil Emblen was pleased with the signs of progress as his side look to make up for lost time in their Olympic build-up.
It was a definite improvement on Japan, Emblen said.
South Korea had their share of chances and couldve punished us, but we asked the players to be braver on the ball and we created more chances tonight.
Korea were causing us trouble out wide but we addressed that at halftime and went toe to toe with them for a long period in the second half.
Theres still plenty to work on but there was some positive things out there and we just need to hang on to those while we continue to improve those other areas.
Emblen said Gleesons groin injury would be assessed fully by team medical staff but early signs of recovery were promising. The team fly out to London on Monday and face UAE in their final warm up match in Austria on Friday (NZT).
The Oly Whites open their Olympic campaign against Belarus in Coventry on July 26, one day before the London 2012 opening ceremony. They also face Egypt and Brazil in Group C.
Full time: 1- 2 (Korea Republic Win)
New Zealand Goal Scorer: Shane SMELTZ 73