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Olyroos scenarios: What they have to do against Egypt to make next round

Can the Olyroos make the knock-out stage of an Olympic tournament? (Photo by Ayman Aref/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
26th July, 2021
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The Olyroos have given every inch of themselves in Tokyo and stood within ten minutes of guaranteeing advancement to the group stage on Sunday, before their eventual 1-0 loss to Spain.

As Australia held its collective breath, Spain launched attacking wave after wave at the Olyroos’ defence for much of the contest.

They were frustratingly denied until a classy header from Mikel Oyarzabal finally broke the deadlock and deflated all of us watching hopefully from thousands of miles away.

The reality of the contest was that Spain are a far more destructive, talented and dangerous football team than the Olyroos.

However, coach Graham Arnold knows that and set things up accordingly with an astute game plan that highlighted defensive discipline as the number one priority.

Sadly, as is often the case, without the creation of enough attacking opportunities of their own, teams fundamentally looking to repel attacks generally begin to spend more and more time doing so. Such was the script on Sunday night.

Graham Arnold head coach of Australia looks on

(Francois Nel/Getty Images)

I came across a few social media comments suggesting that as the Olyroos began to sit deeper and deeper the longer the second half went, they should have instead been attacking the Spanish goal more frequently in order to lessen some of the pressure they were experiencing.

Such views are particularly ill-informed and rather childish when it comes to a basic understanding of football. When a team such as Spain with world-class talent across the park decides it is in a goal-scoring mood and, as they were, desperate for all three points, the reality for a team such as the Olyroos is unavoidable.


Spain’s ability to pass with precision through the midfield and create dangerous moments on the edge of the Australian box with deft touches and interchanges committed their opponents to an extended period of defensive duty.

Arnold’s men did a superb job, soaking up enormous pressure, before the dam wall eventually cracked late in the game with the finishing tape and a heroic result right before their very eyes.

The possession stats were absurdly weighted in favour of the Spaniards. The Olyroos hardly mustered a meaningful shot on target and only when the go-ahead goal arrived did Australia find some relief from the constant barrage.

In those late moments, a few balls did find their way into the Spanish box and despite nothing resembling a serious chance to level up the match, the balance definitely swung back to a more even state.

Now, the Olyroos face Egypt, a team still winless yet exceedingly dangerous and potentially quite comparable to themselves considering what we have seen in the tournament thus far.


It is the most dangerous of scenarios, where due to the goal differences in the group and the points accumulated, the Spain versus Argentina match has absolutely no relevance to the Olyroos’ fate.

Should that fixture produce a draw, Spain will advance, with Argentina left sweating on the other Group C result. The South Americans would continue in the tournament with a win and the Olyroos, depending on the other result, would bundle either Spain or Argentina from the tournament with a mere point against Egypt.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Some may feel a defensive mindset might be the best way for the Olyroos to approach the contest, in order to assure themselves of at least one more match in Tokyo.

Frankly, that reeks of danger and the positive and aggressive football played by the team in their opening fixture against Argentina would give the Olyroos the best chance at what would be another wonderful achievement in an ever growing CV of commendable Australian football moments on the world stage.

Group C has indeed proven to be the group of opportunity. Despite all the good work done thus far by Arnold’s team, they could still finish bottom of the group and be heading home. Contrastingly, with a win against Egypt and an Argentinian triumph against Spain in the other fixture, the Olyroos could do the unthinkable and top it.

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A draw against Egypt does seem an attractive result, yet such a mentality also sets up the Olyroos for potential disaster and more emotional angst for fans of Australian national teams.

However, with little to lose, Arnold would do best to send his troops onto the pitch with the intention of winning and only default to a draw preference late in the game should things become tight.

Playing with such courage and positivity will continue to build growing respect for his management of the national squads, where green shoots of hope are definitely appearing.

Whatever the result, the Olyroos will do us proud. Let’s hope they do so with some entertaining football that earns a place in the quarter-finals and causes few coronaries in the process.