The New Zealand Olympic Committee has named the men and women who will be the first football players to represent New Zealand at an Olympic Games.
Both 18-player squads are will benefit from the availability of key players for the August 6-23 tournaments.
Barry Maister, New Zealand Olympic selector, is delighted to have the squads named and will look forward to honouring New Zealand's first Football Olympians. “With the naming of two big squads today, the New Zealand Olympic Team to Beijing 2008 now stands at 163 athletes, he said. “With some squads as yet unnamed and qualification tournaments still to be contested, New Zealand is expecting its largest team Olympic Team ever.”
The Fooball Ferns (Senior Women)
After ending a 16-year absence from the world stage at the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the Football Ferns return to China with their strongest squad in John Herdman’s two-year tenure as head coach.
Goalscoring midfielder Kirsty Yallop – who missed the World Cup through injury but played a major part in World Cup and Olympic qualifying on either side – gets her chance to foot it against the world’s best, while fullback Marlies Oostdam and striker Rebecca Tegg have both recovered from ACL injuries that have kept them out of international football since the World Cup.
The Peace Queen Cup in June saw the return of Sweden-based World Cup defender Rebecca Smith (from injury) and former Arsenal striker Amber Hearn (from a three-year break from the sport). Strong team performances at that tournament included a 1-0 win over South American champions Argentina.
“It’s exciting going into an Olympic Games knowing that all 18 players bring something different and that they can all make a significant impact to the team performance in their own unique way.” Herdman said.
“We’ve got players coming back from injury at the right time with Oostdam and Tegg back in for the first time since the World Cup and Rebecca Smith coming back on board at the Peace Queen Cup.
Five teenagers in the squad and an average age of just 22 give the Football Ferns a youthful look, although Kristy Hill’s selection is a belated present for her 29th birthday on Tuesday and reward for a fine debut in Korea less than a month ago.
With football beginning two days before the Olympic opening ceremony, the Football Ferns will be New Zealand’s first Olympians in action when they meet Japan in Qinhuangdao on August 6, and Herdman and his team were relishing the opportunity to kickstart New Zealand’s involvement.
“It’s all special – the whole mantle of being an Olympian. We know what it means to New Zealanders to be at the Olympics, and to be the first team in the first event makes it even more special,” Herdman said.
“To have the chance to get off to a good start by getting a win against Japan and maybe inspiring the rest of the Olympic team is extra motivation.
“The Peace Queen Cup added a bit of realism to that prospect. We’ve taken some key steps over the past nine months towards consistently performing in a way that will lead to results against top teams.”
The Football Ferns finish pool play with matches against world number five Norway on August 9 world number one USA on August 12.
Oly-Whites (U-23 Men)
Oly-Whites coach Stu Jacobs says the inclusion of senior All Whites Chris Killen, Simon Elliot and Ryan Nelson could be the boost his side need to progress into quarterfinals.
A full quota of three over-age players adds experience to an otherwise U-23 squad with many graduating from Jacobs’ 2007 U-20 World Cup squad.
“The focus for us from day one has been getting the over-age players we wanted and I guess by getting them we’ve got a big piece of the jigsaw in place,” Jacobs said.
“All the U-23 lads have put themselves in the frame while in camp and it’s been the hardest decision I’ve had to make, but we’ve got the best possible blend.”
All Whites Steven Old, Jeremy Brockie, and Daniel Ellensohn take the total of senior internationals in the squad to six while former Wellington Phoenix goalkeeper Jacob Spoonley has been part of All Whites World Cup qualifying campaign although is yet to win his first senior cap.
The New Zealand Football Championship supplies the bulk of the side although Michael Boxall, Cole Tinkler, Jack Pelter, and Craig Henderson all have experience of fulltime professional or collegiate environments overseas.
“It’s a good mix,” Jacobs said, “but the thing that stands out is how desperate they all were to get to Beijing and now that we’re on our way, how keen they are to go up a level.”
Despite a tough group that feature Olympic hosts China, Gold Medal favourites Brazil and European darkhorses Belgium, Jacobs indicated a growing confidence within his side.
“We’ve got a hell of a chance.”
“We don’t know what we’re up against but we have to back ourselves against China and Belgium. If we start well and get a result in that first match we can create excitement and momentum.
“We’ve got kids who can turn hope into will and three senior players who can really instil that.”
New Zealand Olympic Football Squads.
Football Ferns (Senior Women):
Name (Club – age – caps/goals)
Jenny Bindon (Waitakere City FC – 35 – 23/0)
Rachel Howard (TSV Crailsheim – 30 – 14/0)
Anna Green (Three Kings United – 17 – 8/1)
Abby Erceg (Western Springs – 18 – 24/2)
Kristy Hill (Three Kings United – 29 – 2/0)
Marlies Oostdam (Eastern Suburbs – 30 – 24/0)
Ria Percival (FC Indiana – 18 – 24/2)
Rebecca Smith (Sunnana SK – 27 – 27/2)
Katie Hoyle (Lynn Avon United – 20 – 12/0)
Emily McColl (Cocoa Expos/Coastal Carolina University – 22 – 17/0),
Hayley Moorwood (Lynn Avon United – 24 – 32/3),
Ali Riley (Stanford University – 20 – 19/0)
Kirsty Yallop (Lynn Avon United – 21 – 16/5)
Amber Hearn (Lynn Avon United – 23 – 9/1)
Emma Kete (Lynn Avon United – 20 – 11/2)
Renee Leota (Western Springs FC – 18 – 10/1)
Merissa Smith (Three Kings United – 17 – 15/1)
Rebecca Tegg (Eastern Suburbs – 22 – 5/0)
Management: John Herdman (Head Coach), Tony Readings (Assistant coach/ Technical Analyst), Julie Hogg (Manager), Simon Eaddy (Goalkeeping Coach), Helen Tunstall (Sports Scientist), Alysha Blackwell (Physiotherapist), Mark Fulcher (Doctor).
Oly-Whites (U-23 Men)
Name (Club – age) * indicates over-age player
Liam Little (Caversham AFC/Otago United - 21)
Jacob Spoonley (Miramar Rangers - 21)
Michael Boxall (Santa Barbara University - 19)
Ian Hogg (Western Suburbs/Hawke’s Bay United - 18)
Sam Jenkins (Western Suburbs/Hawke’s Bay United - 21)
Ryan Nelsen* (Blackburn Rovers - 20)
Steven Old (Macarthur Rams - 22)
Jack Pelter (Unattached - 20)
Aaron Scott (Melville/ Waikato FC -21)
Cole Tinkler (Miramar Rangers/Team Wellington - 22)
Jeremy Brockie (Miramar Rangers/Hawke’s Bay United - 20)
Simon Elliott* (Unattached - 34)
Craig Henderson (Dartmouth College - 21)
Cole Peverley (Stop Out FC/Hawke’s Bay United - 20)
Shaun van Rooyen (Western Suburbs/Waikato FC - 21)
Daniel Ellensohn (Western Suburbs/Team Wellington - 23)
Chris Killen* (Celtic FC - 27)
Sam Messam (Napier City Rovers/Hawke’s Bay United - 22),
Management: Stu Jacobs (Head Coach), Jonathan Gould (Assistant Coach/Goalkeeper coach), Jim Hogg (Manager), Andy Foskett (Sports Science), Justin Lopes (Physiotherapist), Andy Smith (Trainer), Jake Pearson (Doctor).
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