McGlinchey relishing Olympics chance

Looking to progress ... New Zealand international Michael McGlinchey (Getty Images)

New Zealand international Michael McGlinchey readily admits that he never grew up dreaming of the Olympic Games but now that he's in England with the 'Olywhites' he's determined to do all he can to shake off the underdog tag and help guide his nation through to the knock-out stages.

Coached by former New Zealand Knights midfielder Neil Emblen and with national coach Ricki Herbert on board as a 'technical adviser', New Zealand is viewed as a rank outsider with most giving the nation little hope of progressing from a group which contains a star-studded Brazil as well as Belarus and Egypt.

A mixed pre-tournament preparation which concluded with a 4-2 loss to United Arab Emirates in Austria on Friday after an early defeat by Korea Republic and a draw with Japan has done little to dent confidence though and McGlinchey is adamant it can spring a surprise.

"Progression is a realistic ambition. I think if you look at the team we've got, we're full of All Whites and we are playing an Under-23 tournament so we've got to sort of back ourselves," he said.

"We're full of experienced boys now and, OK, we know the Brazil team is unbelievable and we're not expecting to get anything from them. But the opening game against Belarus will be the one that will see us through if we do get the result and I believe we can."

After West Ham United refused to release Winston Reid, McGlinchey was included in the squad as one of the three overage players alongside Perth Glory's Shane Smeltz and new Queens Park Rangers signing Ryan Nelson and even spent time wearing the captain’s armband during the match with Japan.

Now what he calls a 'dream' is about to unfold; one that on the surface is quite remarkable for a player who lives in Gosford, was born in Wellington but who grew up in Glasgow.

There hasn't been a united Great Britain football side at the Olympics since 1960 so even after he represented Scotland at the 2007 FIFA Under-20 World Cup, McGlinchey never imagined he'd one day be back in the United Kingdom to compete at the Games.

"The Olympics never came in to my mind to be honest. I never even really thought you could get to the Olympics being Scottish but when I got the call from Neil I was just over the moon about it," he said.

"I'm delighted that he's seen something in me over the last two years and he's picked me for the team and now hopefully I can do a job for him."

That job, as both coach and player readily admit, is more about taking its chances when they arise rather than being the tournament's entertainer.

Emblen spoke in Japan about having to work to a plan that started with 'making sure we don't embarrass ourselves' and McGlinchey echoed those comments by saying, "we know that if we frustrate teams for as long as possible then we're still in the game."

After having picked up just the solitary point in its only prior Olympic campaign four years earlier in China hopes are high that it will improve on that record this time around; the only disappointment for McGlinchey coming in the form of the match venues.

"Glasgow is one of the host cities for the football and I guess I'm a little disappointed that the draw didn't see us going there but you can't ask for it all," he said.

"It's not too far though, Newcastle and Manchester, it's only three hours from my home so I think I've got about 30-odd people coming down on a bus - they're all looking forward to it."

New Zealand opens its London 2012 campaign against Belarus in Coventry.

Source SBS