Australia coach Graham Arnold is not taking his team to Tokyo to make up the numbers. He wants the Olyroos to compete for a place on the podium.
Speaking to the media following a perfect run of Socceroo results, Arnold was enthusiastic about what the Olyroos can achieve.
“I’ve been driving it for over a year, telling everyone that we expect to win a medal,” Arnold said.
“It’s a belief that I have in the players and a belief that I have in the game of football in Australia. I have a lot of belief in Australian kids.”
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Olympic football poses different challenges for a national team manager. FIFA rules no longer require clubs to release players for the tournament. Significant time and effort have gone into establishing goodwill with the clubs.
The Olyroos face Argentina, Spain, and Egypt in a tough group, but Arnold is not relying on senior Socceroos to carry the side.
“We’re not going to build a squad around the three overage players, it will be built around the young kids.”
The manager is emphatic that the Olyroos are essential to building success at senior international level. The under-23 side should help form the foundations for Socceroo squads.
When he first took over the position as Olympic coach, Arnold gave the young players some historical perspective.
“I sat them down and I took them back to the AIS where it all began for our legends of the game…those players, Mark Viduka, Harry Kewell, they all sat in those chairs in this room when they were 20 or 21 years of age… it all started here.”
In his current players, he sees the potential to live up to the standards of their illustrious predecessors.
“The performances of Harry Souttar, Riley Mcgree and Connor Metclafe, they’re going on leaps and bounds but the only way to get better and better in their careers Is more exposure.”
The Olympics football tournament will be the first exposure for some of these players on the global stage. If they can produce what the manager believes they can, Australia could shock the world.
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