21 Feb 2012

NZ under 23 football team beaten by Saudi Arabia

6:08 am on 21 February 2012

The New Zealand Under-23 football team has been beaten 3-nil by the Saudi Arabia national team in Melbourne.

The Saudis are in Australia to prepare for a crucial FIFA World Cup qualifier against Australia later this month and the experience of the more senior side told as they dominated large periods of possession.

In a game of few real chances for the New Zealand attackers, their best chance fell to Daniel Saric late in the game but he couldn't beat the Saudi keeper after being teed up by Dakota Lucas.

New Zealand coach Neil Emblen was encouraged by his side's performance.

He says playing a full national team is fantastic preparation for an Olympic campaign... it gave his players a taste of the pace and level of international football and goals aside, he believes for long periods they played really well.

The sides meet again on Friday night.

New Zealand can qualify for the London Olympics by winning March's Oceania qualifying tournament in Taupo.