Oly Whites coach Danny Hay says the team’s historic 1-0 win over South Korea is a big moment for the sport in New Zealand – and he believes they’re going to get even better as the tournament progresses.
A 70th minute Chris Wood goal secured New Zealand’s first ever win at an Olympic Games, after sole draws in Beijing (2008) and London (2012).
The win was even more impressive against South Korea, the number one ranked side in Asia who took out the bronze medal at the London Olympics.
“It’s obviously a historic win,” said Hay after the game. “It’s a big moment for the game I think in New Zealand. I think we have been starting to show over recent times that we’re capable of competing on the international stage at big FIFA tournaments.
“But obviously getting a result like this over the number one ranked side in Asia at a pinnacle event like the Olympic Games is massive for us.”
Hay said the team’s lengthy preparations paid off.
“We’ve obviously had the opportunity to study the opposition over a very long time and that’s not just Korea but all the teams that we’re going to come up against in our pool.
“We just felt given where our players are playing, the formations they’re actually playing in in their club environments and how best we can utilise them and put them in the best positions possible for them to shine. We felt that was going to be the 3-4-3 [formation] that would be something that would really work well for us.”
While the result went New Zealand’s way, the South Koreans dominated for large periods of the game.
In fact, Wood’s 70th minute strike was the team’s first shot on target.
Hay said he was happy with the result regardless, especially considering the lack of game time the team has had due to the interrupted lead up to the tournament.
“It’s the first game,” Hay said when asked about the team’s attacking output. “We’ve had very limited opportunities to play together. That’s the first time the team’s got together in a formal, proper game in forever.
“A number of those players played in November 2019 and that’s a hell of a long time ago. We were a little bit rusty, the players feel like they can be a lot better in possession and therefore create more opportunities going forward.
“The nice thing is that they’re being a little bit tough on themselves already in that respect and know that we’re going to have to improve in certain areas as we move forward but I think the fact that we showed the amount of grit and determination that we did sets us up really well because I think we will continue to improve each game we play.”
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