New Zealand 1 Egypt 1
Four years ago, New Zealand qualified for their first ever Olympic football tournament thanks to the attacking abilities of Kosta Barbarouses, netting four goals in five games in the preliminary tournament. However, with three older players being drafted in, as the qualifying campaign was strictly an under-23 competition, Barbarouses was left out of the side that traveled to Beijing. Two years on, he only made the reserve player list for the World Cup in South Africa.
Now, he appears in his first major international tournament. Is this his time to shine?
It’s match day 2 for New Zealand in this, their second-ever Olympic Games, and Barbarouses has just played a full 90 minutes against Egypt at Old Trafford. Although his impact in the game did not change the scoreline, his movement off the ball, darting runs, drawing defenders out of position and maintaining the Oly Whites attacking flow was invaluable.
Playing against an Egyptian team who nearly overturned Brazil’s 3-0 lead in an impressive second-half display, New Zealand took the lead. West Brom’s Chris Woods scored from a corner, celebrating, as he later tweeted, in the style of one of Old Trafford’s more familiar figures, Wayne Rooney.
Their lead was short-lived, however. Twenty-two minutes later, Mohammed Sallah was leveling from six yards. With minutes to go, Barbarouses’ moment came at the corner of the box, but he failed to find the killer touch.
“When you go up, you’ve to try to get that little touch on the end of it, and unfortunately, that didn’t happen for us today,” said Barbarouses, who had been playing a defensive role for most of the game.
Only in the closing stages, when a winner was so desperately needed ahead of their final group game against Brazil, did we see the real attacking prowess he has.
In a sombre tone, Kosta admits his upset in not being picked in the past: “I’ve been left out of the national side sometimes, maybe been a little bit unlucky, but now, I consider myself to be one of the senior, important players in the team.”
It is this growing confidence that has won the admiration of his team captain, Ryan Nelsen. “In training, he’s been brilliant,” exclaims QPR’s new signing, a man who captained his country at the last Olympic Games in Beijing. “His performances in both games have been amazing, he’s improving every year as a player, he’s matured and he’s got a big future.”
As a predominantly Under-23 tournament, the Olympic Games are a chance for players like Kosta, who has just signed a one-year loan deal with Greek side Panathinaikos. Furthermore, New Zealand seem to be entering a golden era of football, qualifying for their first Olympics, then first World Cup two years later, holding then-holders Italy to a draw and placing higher above them in the group.
New Zealand, just like Kosta Barbarouses, are becoming bigger and better on the international stage every year.
This piece was written by Phil of The Reporters' Academy, a media production company run by young people. The Reporters' Academy is integrated into the world of media, education and employment, based in two great sporting cities, Manchester and Melbourne, and is officially Inspired by London 2012.
All quotes were obtained first-hand unless otherwise noted.