New Zealand Olympic Men's Soccer Team 2012: Updated News, Roster and Analysis
The New Zealand men's football team aren't going to be medal contenders at the 2012 London Olympics, but that certainly doesn't mean they won't be competitive and a side to watch.
After qualifying first in Oceania, the "Oly-Whites" have proven themselves to be not only a team for the future, but also a team with great current ability.
New Zealand have drawn Group C for the tournament—placing them with Egypt, Belarus and the superpower that is Brazil—which will no doubt test their character and ability throughout the group stages.
Let's take a look at how the Oceania champions will fare during the Olympics.
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New Zealand have announced their roster for London.
For the Olympics, rosters must be made up of players under the age of 23, except for three over-age players that can be selected. Two goalkeepers must also be selected for the tournament.
Over-age players are written in italics.
1. Jake Gleeson (Portland Timbers)
18. Michael O'Keeffe (Fairfield University)
3. Ian Hogg (Auckland City)
4. Tim Myers (Waitakere United)
5. Tommy Smith (Ipswich Town)
6. Ryan Nelsen (Queens Park Rangers)
12. Adam Thomas (Melville United)
14. James Musa (Team Wellington)
2. Tim Payne (Blackburn Rovers)
7. Kosta Barbarouses (Panathinaikos)
8. Michael McGlinchey (Central Coast Mariners)
13. Alex Feneridis (Auckland City)
15. Cameron Howieson (Burnley)
17. Adam McGeorge (Auckland City)
9. Shane Smeltz (Perth Glory)
10. Chris Wood (West Bromwich Albion)
11. Marco Rojas (Melbourne Victory)
16. Dakota Lucas (Sunshine Coast)
22. Scott Basalaj, GK (Team Wellington)
19. Michael Eager, D (Redlands United)
20. Cameron Lindsay, M (Wellington Phoenix)
21. Luke Rowe, D (Team Wellington)
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As mentioned before, each country is allowed to have three over-age selections in their Olympic team.
Here are the over-age starters that will play for New Zealand in London.
Shane Smeltz (Perth Glory)
Shane Smeltz will be included after his stellar year with Perth Glory—netting 17 goals in just 26 matches and taking his side to the final of the Australian domestic competition.
New Zealand's strength throughout the qualifying rounds was certainly in their defense and midfield, and the inclusion of Smeltz will certainly boost their attack.
Ryan Nelsen (Tottenham Hotspur)
Ryan Nelsen is another selection for the tournament that we saw coming, with the 34-year-old a veteran of the New Zealand national team. Nelsen has struggled for game time this season with English club Tottenham Hotspur and will no doubt relish the opportunity to compete on the world stage once more.
As mentioned above, the Oly-Whites are likely to adopt a defensive focus throughout the campaign, and thus the inclusion of Nelsen would fit well with this strategy.
Michael McGlinchey (Central Coast Mariners)
The only surprising inclusion of an over-age player was that of Michael McGlinchey. The midfielder has already played for the New Zealand National Team twice this year, after switching from the Scottish team.
McGlinchey is barely considered over-age, but the team could not pass up on him strengthening their important midfield.
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Projected starter: Jake Gleeson
Gleeson could well be the star of the tournament for New Zealand if he can continue the form he's shown for the Portland Timbers in Major League Soccer.
Coming up against the likes of Brazil and Egypt is no easy task, but if Gleeson was good enough for Manchester United as a teenager, he may well be good enough to lead New Zealand to success.
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Projected starters: Ian Hogg, Michael Eager, Ryan Nelsen, James Musa
As mentioned before, Tottenham defender Ryan Nelsen will lead the Oly-White defense throughout the Olympics and will also take on the role of captain for the tournament.
New Zealand were dominant defensively in the Olympic qualifying matches, conceding just two goals in four matches. Their match against Brazil will be the real test as to where the Oly Whites are at defensively.
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Projected starters: Michael McGlinchey, Tim Payne, Adam McGeorge, Cameron Lindsay
Marco Rojas will not be playing in the midfield despite showing why he is one of New Zealand's hottest young prospects with his superb midfield play and on-ball skills. He was ruled out of qualifying, but will be playing as a forward.
Adam McGeorge usually captains the Oly-Whites, and whilst he won't take on that responsibility during the tournament, he will assume responsibility in the midfield.
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Projected starters: Shane Smeltz, Marcos Rojas
It was Greg Draper who scored the only goal in New Zealand's 1-0 over Fiji in the final for Olympic qualification, but he will not be among the forwards. Instead, the previously mentioned Rojas will be helping on offense.
Shane Smeltz will be the main man for the Kiwi attack. In his final four matches of the Australian tournament, the Perth Glory striker netted nine goals, including four in the one match against Melbourne Victory.
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Neil Emblen will coach the Oly-Whites throughout the Olympic campaign, as he has done right throughout the qualification process.
He then moved to New Zealand to play for two teams—New Zealand Knights and Waitakere United—the latter of which he went on to coach in mid-2009.
Speaking on the upcoming Olympic tournament, Emblen said:
I would love to go to the Olympic games in any capacity—the job at hand has always been my primary focus... There's a lot of confidence but obviously a lot of nervous energy, too, because we all want to do well...
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The best-case scenario for the Oly-Whites would be to improve on their 2008 Olympic performance, which saw them finish last in their group with just the one point and one goal.
Belarus provides a great opportunity for New Zealand to record their first-ever win, and if their defense is switched on, they could well finish with a shock win against Egypt.
But the real dream would be an upset victory over footballing greats in Brazil, with a penalty in stoppage time giving the Oly-Whites their greatest win in history.
That would be the best-case scenario, as optimistic as it sounds.
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The worst-case scenario would be not only do they fail to win a single match, but they concede a plethora of goals in the process.
They get flogged by Brazil, dominated by Egypt and outclassed by Belarus—failing to find the back of the net except for an own goal to finish the tournament.
That would be the worst-case scenario.
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What will happen is likely somewhere in the middle.
New Zealand will no doubt improve on their 2008 campaign, and they will score in multiple matches.
I think they end up defeating Belarus to move off the bottom of the group with a 2-0 victory, but a 3-1 loss to Egypt and a 4-0 loss to Brazil means that the group stage is as far as the Oly-Whites progress in the 2012 London Olympics.
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How they qualified: New Zealand progressed through to the Olympics after winning the Oceania qualification tournament. They demolished Tonga 10-0 and beat Papua New Guinea 1-0 to move through to the semifinals, where they beat Vanuatu 3-2.
They won the final over Fiji, 1-0.
Nicknames: Oly Whites, Kiwis
Random but relevant: Watch striker Shane Smeltz weave some magic here.