Tommy Smith and New Zealand kick off their Olympics
TOMMY Smith will today get his Olympic dreams underway with a rallying cry to his New Zealand team mates.
The Ipswich Town centre-back will have the whole of Suffolk and beyond cheering him on today as the men’s football kicks off – on the eve of the official opening ceremony of the Games.
Smith will line up for the Lily Whites against Belarus knowing that a good start is imperative with a final match against tournament favourites Brazil lurking in the background.
The 22-year-old, believed to be the first player to appear at an Olympics while on Town’s books, said: “Brazil are the stand-out team, there is no doubt about that. They have pedigree and have these great young players coming through.
“But you look at the likes of Egypt and Belarus and we have a strong squad to be fair. You never know in football, hopefully we can prove a few doubters wrong, get through the group stages and then see from there.”
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Smith is expected to be named vice-captain of New Zealand’s Under-23s side after deputising for new QPR defender Ryan Nelson in the recent Oceania Nations Cup.
Speaking of wearing the armband, Smith added: “It is an unbelievable feeling. I can’t put into words how proud it made me feel.
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“It was a great privilege and hopefully it is something I can carry on doing whenever Ryan Nelson is unavailable. But nothing has been confirmed about the vice-captaincy for the Games – that is up to the Olympic manager.
“I would obviously be delighted if ever I was asked to lead Ipswich but that is out of my hands. I just have to concentrate on playing as well as I can and making sure I get myself in the team first and foremost.”
New Zealand start their Group C tournament against Belarus at the City of Coventry Stadium tonight (7.45pm ko) just before Stuart Pearce’s Team GB side begin their campaign against Senegal (8pm ko).
Smith then faces Egypt on Sunday and Brazil next Wednesday.