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Opinion

Skoko on Olyroos: 'I don’t think people understand how big that is'

Lionel Messi will face the Socceroos again at the 2020 Copa America. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
Roar Guru
23rd July, 2021
8

Former Socceroos great Josip Skoko has lauded the Olyroos’ 2-0 win over Argentina in their Olympic opener.

In what is considered one of the biggest upsets in Olympic history, goals from Lachie Wales and Marco Tilio saw Australia go to the top of their group, after Egypt and Spain had earlier drawn.

“It’s a massive result, I don’t think people understand how big that is,” said Skoko.

“Full credit to the boys for a fantastic win.”

Skoko credited the increase in minutes given to young players in the A-League as a key to the result, something that Socceroos and Olyroos coach Graham Arnold has long advocated for.

The statistics speak for themselves. In the 2018-19 A-League season, a total of 59,441 minutes (19 per cent of total match minutes) were given to under-23 players. This number increased to 73,280 (22 per cent) in 2019-20 and 89,620 minutes (28 per cent) in the season just finished

“We’ve discussed this a lot and Arnie has been leading the discussion in terms of doing an analysis on match minutes, it’s very clear the more match minutes you give young players in professional leagues or any leagues, the more successful teams are,” said Skoko.

(Photo: Getty Images)

“Even a ten per cent increase is huge. It’s a weird age when you are in your early 20s especially in Australia, but it shouldn’t be.

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“We should have 20-year-olds who play regularly in the A-League, and by the time they are 22-23 they should have played 50-100 games in the A-League.

“That is something Arnie has definitely strived for, and I know Football Australia has put in a lot of research in the last two years in identifying this.

“They have identified pools of what players we have and seeing where the gaps are, and are putting a lot of effort into those areas.

“You have a look at the squad, as a football fan we know all these players as they play in Europe or in the A-League.”

The performance of skipper Thomas Deng, who played 71 games for Melbourne Victory adder debuting as an 18-year-old, has received wide spread plaudits.

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Skoko was glowing in his praise of Deng, who now plays in Japan for powerhouse Urawa Red Diamonds.

“Deng was very calm and in fact, I thought the whole defence was very calm and played the ball around well and defended well, one-on-one.

“We didn’t look out of place in any battles one-on-one and as a team we were comfortable.”

Skoko also encouraged fans to be patient with Daniel Arzani, who had 56 touches, three shots on goal and 33 passes at 70 per cent accuracy.

Daniel Arzani

(Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

“Having a player like Daniel Arzani you are always a threat and everyone knows it. If you get the ball to him, he is good enough to keep it and he can beat a player or two. He can do something amazing with it.

“You feel when he is on the ball he has that power. He can take a player on and keep the ball and get out of a tight spot.

“Players like that you put them out one-on-one and let them go. Let them destroy their opponents and create chances.

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“In wide areas he has the pace and skill, which he showed at Melbourne City a few years ago, so for me he is a weapon.”

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While Skoko believes the Olyroos have the potential to now go beyond the group stage, he urged the team not to get complacent.

“It’s not a foregone conclusion just because we have had a good result against Argentina.

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“Spain are the favourites in the group. It’s going to be difficult. Egypt also shows they aren’t mugs.

“The boys have started well but we have a lot of work to do. Tournament football is cut throat.

“But we have got to be happy to be in the situation at the moment.”

The Olyroos play Spain on Sunday night at 8.30pm with a win guaranteeing a place in the knockout stages.

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