Danny Hay’s New Zealand men’s football team made a dream start to their Tokyo Olympic campaign when they stunned highly rated Korea 1-0 in their Group B opener yesterday.
It was the first time the men had won a football match at an Olympics and is already being touted as one of the highpoints in New Zealand football history.
Experienced Chris Wood lived up to expectations, proving a constant danger to the Koreans and in the 70th minute provided the winner with a coolly executed goal from six metres. There were a few moments of concern for the 29-year-old when he was initially flagged offside, but the video replay revealed Wood had not transgressed and the goal stood.
The Koreans, quarter-finalists in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics and bronze medallists in 2012, responded strongly and put the New Zealand defence under severe pressure in the closing minutes.
However, with Winston Reid outstanding in defence and goalie Michael Woud cool under pressure, New Zealand stood firm.
Afterwards the New Zealand camp was ecstatic.
“It’s obviously a historic win,” said coach Danny Hay. “It’s a big moment for the game in New Zealand.”
“We’ve been starting to show over recent times that we are capable of competing on the international stage at FIFA tournaments, but obviously getting a result like this over the No 1-ranked side in Asia, at a pinnacle event like the Olympic Games, is massive for us.”
The New Zealanders are now at much-improved odds to progress through the group stages, though their next two opponents, Honduras and Romania, are not to be under-rated. Romania beat Honduras in the other Group B first round match.
The shock result was a boost following the New Zealand women’s team’s 1-0 defeat by Australia the previous day.
Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games Football