When Tim Payne takes the field at Tokyo's national Stadium tonight for New Zealand's Under-23 team against their Japanese counterparts it will complete a whirlwind 12 months in which the 18-year-old has represented New Zealand at every level.

The Olympic warm up comes one year and 12 days since Payne and his under-17 teammates were eliminated from the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Mexico at the hands of Japan in a one-sided round of 16 match.

Payne was one of the star turns of a campaign that saw the Young All Whites thrash Uzbekistan, draw with USA and run the Czech Republic close in a narrow defeat, helping him earn a successful trial at Blackburn Rovers and also win a place in the Junior All Whites U-20 World Cup campaign in Colombia.

For a teenager who says his aim after Mexico was to finish off his final year at Auckland's Sacred Heart College and then look overseas, two age-group World Cups would have been enough to digest but there has been a steady supply of highlights since.


The England-based attacking midfielder reached the FA Youth Cup final with Blackburn's academy, made his All Whites debut in the recent win over Honduras followed by three more caps for the national team at the OFC Nations Cup before being named in the Olympic squad for London.

"The past year has gone by so quickly," Payne said.

"When I think back to the start of the under 17s to where I am right now and everything that's happened it's a dream come true. Having played for the All Whites is every young Kiwi footballer's dream so it's been a big year for me.

"Any chance to represent New Zealand is a proud moment and going to age group World Cups is a pretty cool experience. Playing for the different teams in just over a year something I'll look back on and think how lucky I was at some stages and how cool it's been."

Long-term, Payne said being part of an All Whites team that qualifies for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil is high on his list of targets, but more immediately he and his Oly Whites teammates are aiming to get out of an Olympic group featuring Belarus, Egypt and Brazil.

Preparations for that mission enter a new phase for Neil Emblen's charges against Japan.

Like Payne, All Whites Cameron Howieson and Michael McGlinchey will make their Olympic team debut against Japan and while the likes of Shane Smeltz, Ryan Nelsen and Kosta Barbarouses will be used to hitting the ground running on international duty, some new combinations will need to be forged with younger New Zealand-based players.

Emblen will be without the services of West Brom striker Chris Wood and Ipswich Town defender Tommy Smith who join the team in Korea for their next warm up match while Marco Rojas arrives in Tokyo on the morning of the match. Tim Myers is suffering from virus while Dakota Lucas is carrying an ankle injury.


The match at the National Stadium in Tokyo kicks off at 10.55pm tonight with coverage on Sky Sport 3 from 10.30pm.

New Zealand: (from) Jake Gleeson (GK), Tim Payne, Ian Hogg, Tim Myers, Tommy Smith, Ryan Nelsen (C), Kosta Barbarouses, Michael McGlinchey, Shane Smeltz, Chris Wood, Marco Rojas, Adam Thomas, Alex Feneridis, James Musa, Cameron Howieson, Dakota Lucas, Adam McGeorge, Michael O'Keefe (GK).