National coach Danny Hay’s faith in under-fire goalkeeper Michael Woud has paid off with the OlyWhites reaching the knockout stages of the Olympic Games for the first time.
Hay stuck by the 22-year-old goalkeeper, selecting him to stay between the posts for New Zealand’s crucial last group game against Romania in which they needed at least a draw to go into the quarter-finals in Japan.
Woud anchored a fine defensive performance by the team and the 0-0 draw was enough to take the team to the next stage.
The ‘keeper had been widely criticised after New Zealand’s 3-2 loss to Honduras earlier in the week after his role in the goals conceded by the OlyWhites.
But Woud put that experience behind him for the match against Romania, delighting coach Hay.
At the post-match press conference, Hay said:
“I thought Michael was outstanding.
“One game does not define a player. It doesn’t define a player’s career and I think we’re all aware Michael is a goalkeeper of huge potential. It’s easy to forget that he’s only 22.
“Yes, he made some mistakes against Honduras, but he just showed what level of resilience he’s got.
“The way the team surrounded him over the last couple of days and the support they gave him was really pleasing to see.
“I think Michael’s performance was a reflection of how his team-mates have helped him through a tough couple of days.”
Who is Michael Woud?
Five things you might not know about the OlyWhites goalkeeper:
- He has played for New Zealand at five different levels – U-17, U-20, U-23, full national side and now with the OlyWhites (who are U-24).
- He spent three seasons on the books of English club Sunderland (2015-18).
- Though born in Auckland, he was eligible to represent the Netherlands as well as New Zealand, through his family – he turned down the chance to play for the Netherlands U-20 team in favour of the chance to represent New Zealand.
- Woud saved three penalties in a row in a penalty shoot-out with Colombia at the 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup but the referee ordered a retake of the third. Colombia scored to win the shootout.
- The stopper currently plays for Dutch club Almere City.
Photo: Michael Woud … image courtesy of Shane Wenzlick / Phototek
New Zealand play Japan in their quarter-final at 9pm (NZT) on Saturday July 31, 2021.
If New Zealand beat the hosts at Kashima, they will meet the winner of Spain-Ivory Coast in the semi-final on August 3.