22 Jul Australia’s fearless strategy wins Olympic opener vs. Argentina
Australia marked their return to the Olympic stage with an upset 2-Zero win over South American energy Argentina on Thursday, transferring prime of what might effectively be the hardest group of the boys’s football event on the Tokyo 2020 Video games.
Western United attacker Lachlan Wales turned in Sydney FC defender Joel King’s 14th-minute cross to provide Australia the lead in Sapporo, earlier than Melbourne Metropolis sensation Marco Tilio scored with what was simply his second contact within the 80th minute to seal the end result.
Setting the desk
Upon a shallow examination (extra on that later), few would have predicted that Australia would have stood a lot of an opportunity in opposition to Argentina; the footballing pedigree of the 2 nations roughly equal to one of many Westminster Kennel Membership’s best and that mongrel that lives down the street. Nonetheless, regardless of the distinction in repute, the opening 45 minutes on the Sapporo Dome completely set the stage for one of the well-known wins in Olyroo historical past.
After beginning brightly, King and Wales’ mixture was a close to textbook instance of how coach Graham Arnold — who had maybe his greatest recreation as a nationwide team boss — needs his teams to play: wingbacks getting ahead to complement an assault that drives ahead with tempo, energy, and fearlessness.
Was this modus operandi validated and their opposition clearly not the cruel behemoths their repute could have prompt, Australia’s early objective served to not solely soothe any frayed nerves of the XI in inexperienced but in addition pressure the Albiceleste to press the difficulty. And whereas this ensuing Argentine management of the ball all through the remainder of the primary half led to some nervy moments — anticipated given their attacking expertise — it additionally gave the Australians an opportunity to maintain them trustworthy by constantly threatening in transition, choose their moments, and play with confidence.
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On the again, the central-defensive duo of Harry Souttar and Thomas Deng, already two of the facet’s most skilled gamers, excelled as they calmly confronted down Adolfo Gaich and Alexis Mac Allister — each capped at senior degree for Argentina. Wingbacks Nathaniel Atkinson and King had been empowered to proceed their marauding runs ahead and pestering of the Argentine again 4, with the previous’s tireless efforts to get ahead resulting in the second of madness that resulted within the Australian’s different main boon of the opening half: Francisco Ortega’s dismissal.
Booked for his last-ditch problem on the Melbourne Metropolis wingback seconds earlier, Ortega acquired his marching orders when he made contact with Riley McGree awaiting the following set piece. Replays exhibiting that not solely was the cardboard contentious, however that the contact had been instigated when the 22-year-old was pushed ahead by his personal goalkeeper.
Although Argentina had accrued 62% of possession and had 9 photographs by half-time, none of their efforts troubled goalkeeper Tom Glover, whereas Australia had been maybe unfortunate to not seize a second by means of certainly one of their moments on the counter or by means of McGree’s audacious bicycle-kick try. And after driving an preliminary onslaught of Argentine assaults and a collection of yellow card selections that smacked of make-up calls by the referee, Arnold’s facet and their one-man benefit had been capable of journey out the second 45 minutes with a degree of ease few would have anticipated coming into the competition — Tilio’s 80th-minute thunderbolt sealing a deserved win.
The Recreation in context
Provided that the Olyroos ended a 13-year-absence from the Olympics with the 2-Zero triumph, it is becoming that it was the Argentina that had been on the receiving finish. The 2 nations had beforehand clashed on the 2004 and 2008 Video games. On each of these events, Australia misplaced 1-Zero to the eventual gold medallists however, given the energy of their opponents in Athens and Beijing, they had been hardly shameful defeats.
In 2004, the likes of Willy Caballero, Javier Mascherano, and Carlos Tevez — in addition to overage gamers Roberto Ayala and Kily Gonzalez — had been all part of the Argentine squad and, in 2008, they deployed Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Angel Di María as U23s and Mascherano and Juan Roman Riquelme as overage representatives.
Nevertheless, whereas Thursday’s win actually counts as an upset and an necessary confidence booster, this Argentina facet should not be mistaken for possessing the identical degree of world-beating potential as their predecessors — coach Fernando Batista’s facet are carrying a transparent developmental bent in 2021.
Of the eight members of Argentina’s just lately triumphant Copa America squad that had been additionally eligible to play on the Olympics, none are in Japan. Only a single member of the squad — Mac Allister — has began for Argentina at senior degree and the one overage participant current was uncapped goalkeeper Jeremias Ledesma. And with the current graduation of the Copa Libertadores, Boca Juniors and River Plate gamers are absent, as are a lot of unreleased Europe-based gamers.
It feels churlish to rain on the well-earned parade of the Olyroos however, with a Spanish facet packed stuffed with senior internationals — together with breakout Euro 2020 stars Dani Olmo and Pedri — ready within the subsequent recreation, correct context of Thursday’s win must be maintained and expectations managed accordingly. There’s nonetheless an extended solution to go earlier than Australia can begin dreaming of a medal. After all, with Spain held by Egypt earlier on Thursday night, who is aware of what might occur on Sunday.
The world is watching
Because of the plethora of information on the fingertips of membership’s and their scouting departments in fashionable football, the times of a participant incomes a big-time transfer off the again of a powerful event are seemingly up to now. Nevertheless, because of this nearly each participant in attendance at a junior event enters play already on the radar of golf equipment — and a collection of sturdy performances can reinforce a participant’s price to an already occasion.
And if Atkinson’s kind with Melbourne Metropolis over the previous two years has served to lift the eyebrows of any potential suitors, his tireless efficiency down the appropriate flank in Sapporo could have simply given them the nudge they should choose up the telephone and name his employers down in Casey. At simply 22-years-old, the Tasmanian will nearly actually develop into a Socceroo on the subsequent obtainable alternative, and golf equipment, maybe, would do effectively to get in earlier than curiosity in him elevated much more.
The identical repute enhance additionally goes for the likes of Australia-based standouts Denis Genreau, King and Metcalfe. As an U23 event that golf equipment can block their gamers from collaborating in, the Olympic Video games does not carry with it the identical degree of status because the levels that these younger gamers could have dreamed of coming into.
Extra performances like these put in in opposition to Argentina, nevertheless, might serve to open doorways not solely to the intense lights of European football — however improvement that might show an absolute boon for the Socceroos within the years forward.