New Zealand first entered a team in the Olympic Games in 1956 at Melbourne. It lost to Germany (4 to 5) and to Pakistan (1 to 5), but won against Belgium (3 to 0) and (3 to 2).
It came sixth in international grading and this ranking endorsed by the 1958 draw with Pakistan, contributed to a recognition of New Zealand's place in international competition and spurred it to greater preparation in the 1960 Olympics. Training schools were held during Easter vacation in each year and plans were prepared to allow for acclimatisation to the high temperatures of Rome. Two matches were played in Singapore on the way – Singapore (lost, 0 to 1), and Malaya (won, 3 to 2). Six practice matches were played in Rome against other Olympic teams. In the Olympic matches the team drew with Holland (1 all), then won on a replay (2 to 1), lost to India (0 to 3), and won from Denmark (4 to 1). In the semi-finals it held Spain until the eighteenth minute of extra time, when Spain scored the only goal of the match to win. After a series of grading matches New Zealand gained fifth placing after beating Germany 1 to 0, and Australia 1 to 0.