The OlyWhites have made a perfect start to their Tokyo Olympics campaign.
Striker Chris Wood scored in the 70th minute to clinch an invaluable 1-0 win over Asian champions South Korea at Ibaraki Kashima Stadium on Thursday night.
The goal secured New Zealand’s first-ever win in men’s football at the Olympics, after previous draws in Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012.
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Wood was initially flagged for offside after the incisive pass from midfielder Joe Bell struck a South Korean defender and fell into the Burnley forward’s path, but the marginal decision was correctly overturned by the video assistant referee.
Setting up in a 3-4-3 formation, New Zealand were disjointed and cagey in the first half and relied on two important saves from goalkeeper Michael Woud to keep Group B favourites South Korea at bay.
Changhoon Kwon looked likely to open the scoring midway through the first half after controlling a dangerous cross from Yoonseong Kang with his chest but Woud made himself big and came up with the vital intervention as Kwon pulled the trigger.
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Despite their cautious start, going 66 minutes before registering a single shot on target, the OlyWhites grew in confidence in the second half and in the end were deserving of their narrow victory, with Wood’s strike proving to be the match-winner.
With Honduras and Romania to come, Thursday’s win has given the OlyWhites an excellent chance of progressing out of Group B and reaching the knockout stages.
New Zealand 1 (Chris Wood 70′) South Korea 0 HT: 0-0