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Opinion

Seriously, how stacked is Spain? Frightening prospect facing Olyroos in Tokyo

(Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
Expert
18th July, 2021
33
1312 Reads

While many of Europe’s elite footballers are currently sunning themselves on the beach, one of the hottest names in the world game is preparing to take on Australia in primetime.

Pedri will probably need to come back from Japan loaded with souvenirs for his Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman.

The Dutchman was his usual apoplectic self at the news Spain had selected Pedri for the Olympics, blasting the decision after the 18-year-old wunderkind played almost every minute of the senior national team’s Euro 2020 campaign.

But Spain have always taken the Olympics seriously ever since Barcelona hosted in 1992 and having made full use of the Spanish law that requires both Real Madrid and Barcelona to release their top players, coach Luis de la Fuente will travel to Japan expecting to win gold.

That’s because their squad looks ridiculous on paper compared to pretty much every other nation involved.

Unai Simon, Eric Garcia, Pau Torres, Mikel Oyarzabal, Dani Olmo and man of the moment Pedri featured at Euro 2020, while overage players Marco Asensio, Mikel Merino and Dani Ceballos are all full internationals.

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We haven’t seen our boys face a national team laden with this much world-class talent since the Socceroos took on France at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Whether it’s a blessing or a curse that we’ll get to watch the Olyroos take on Spain at the Sapporo Dome at 8:30pm in primetime next Sunday night remains to be seen.

There’s every chance the Spaniards might simply rip Graham Arnold’s team to shreds.

But if the point of international football is to test yourself against the best, the 22 players selected for Australia to take on Argentina, Spain and Egypt at the Tokyo Olympics should consider themselves lucky.

Representing your country is an honour reserved for a select few and after failing to qualify for both the London and Rio Olympics, Aussie fans should be delighted to see the Olyroos back on the big stage.

The likes of Tom Glover, Reno Piscopo and Denis Genreau deserve to showcase their talents in the international arena, while players like Daniel Arzani and Riley McGree can use the Games to rebuild a bit of confidence.

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Daniel Arzani

Will Daniel Arzani make his mark on the men’s Olympic football tournament? (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

And selecting Mitch Duke as the squad’s solitary overage player is a shrewd move.

Arnold might wish to use the Olympics as a launchpad for the next generation of Socceroos, but the 30-year-old Duke is the experienced veteran who can bring the whole squad together.

That’s something the Matildas need a bit of as well.

Results haven’t been ideal under new coach Tony Gustavsson, but the Swede has the chance to sweep it all under the carpet by getting off to a winning start against Tom Sermanni’s New Zealand.

Like the Olyroos, Australia’s women’s team has been drawn in a brutal group featuring the Kiwis, Gustavsson’s native Sweden and the national team the Matildas ostensibly nicked him from in the form of the United States.

Unlike the Olyroos, who’ll play their group stage campaign in the slightly cooler climes of northern Japan, the Matildas will face their Group G destiny in Tokyo and its hotter surrounds.

Only four countries are represented in both the men’s and women’s tournament, namely host nation Japan, Australia, New Zealand and perennial powerhouses Brazil.

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And given our proud history in Olympic football – the Olyroos made the semi-finals in Barcelona, while the Matildas are two-time quarter-finalists – we should be genuinely excited to watch our national teams strut their stuff in a time zone we can actually enjoy.

Those, like Koeman, who insist Olympic football is unimportant can sod off as far I’m concerned. He only says that because he’s not involved.

For the rest of us, the Olympics give us the chance to watch the Olyroos and Matildas go up against some of the best players in world football.

It’s the sort of things dreams are made of.

Let’s just hope it hasn’t turned into a nightmare by this time next week.

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