05/03/2024

The Matildas headline Australia's football hopes at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics (Photo: Matildas)

The Matildas and Olyroos will both be intent on securing medals in what should be a tight and exciting football program at the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games.

Football will have two events at Tokyo 2020. For all your Olympic coverage, stay tuned to The Inner Sanctum’s Olympic hub and the Olympics Central.

Always a very popular event at any Olympic Games, the football component is back in a big way in Tokyo.

With new technology and a more relaxed age restriction for the men’s competition headlining the sport, the two football events should go to a new level in the coming weeks.

Tokyo 2020 changes – tech-savvy and age changes

It’s been a constant source of discussion and controversy for the past few years in the world game, but the introduction of the VAR system has certainly made a massive difference to the way football is run and officiated.

From goal-line reviews to penalty checks on tackles, it is the ultimate technology-based overseeing eye that can ensure football games, as heavily scrutinised as they are, are officiated without any hitches.

For the first time, the system will be in place in Tokyo, with FIFA approving the use of the VAR technology in June 2020. It’s the first time the system will go to the Olympics and become a pivotal way of refereeing matches.

But for the men’s competition, which is traditionally an under-23 event, the delay of the Games has meant the rules have relaxed ever so slightly.

To make up for the year-delay, the event now has an under-24 restriction, with the allowance of three overage players per nation competing in the tournament.

A massive shake-up is incoming

It’s usually very rare for defending champions to slip off the pedestal and miss challenging for medals in the next instalment of the Olympics. But on the women’s side of the competition, there’s an even greater shock.

Having claimed gold in stunning fashion in Rio 2016, the German team looked to be the next potential all-conquering women’s football side. But losing to Sweden in the quarter-finals stage of the 2019 World Cup meant they failed to qualify for Tokyo, and won’t take place in the 12 team draw.

With reigning gold medallists in Germany not in the draw, the Matildas have a chance to make a big statement (Photo: Matildas)

It also follows the men’s draw, which has a wonderful assortment of nations competing that diverts from the usual football superpower nations. From Saudi Arabia to Honduras, some of the best young talent will get the world stage to prove themselves, and future stars may emerge from such a close-run event.

Why football?

To put simply, football is the world’s most popular sport. It spans the majority of continents and is always easy to watch. In some low-scoring contests it has drawn criticism for players diving or for defensive approaches, but the world game has always been a highly-skilled and breathtaking affair to watch.

On the women’s side of the event, their attacking and free-flowing styles is always refreshing to indulge in, as the Australian star in Sam Kerr is a prime example of blockbuster entertainment.

For the men’s draw, the ability to watch emerging prospects and witness young players make a name for themselves makes their event unpredictable and always exciting.

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The draw

Men

Group AGroup BGroup CGroup D
JapanNew ZealandEygptBrazil
South AfricaSouth KoreaSpainGermany
MexicoHondurasArgentinaIvory Coast
FranceRomaniaAustraliaSaudi Arabia

Women

Group EGroup FGroup G
Japan China PRSweden
CanadaBrazilUnited States
Great BritainZambiaAustralia
ChileNetherlandsNew Zealand

Medal favourites

For the female event, it’s hard to go past the usual suspects, which is led by America. Having lost in a shock penalty shoot-out at the quarter-final stage at Rio, the Americans will be baying for revenge and a gold medal.

Sweden will be looking to build on their dream run at Rio, which included knocking off the USA and Brazil in penalty shoot outs en route to a silver medal finish. Brazil are always renowned for boasting strong football sides, and has the talent to make a run, alongside the ever-dangerous Canadians.

On a more local scale, Australia’s Matildas have a developing squad that has been through an up-and-down couple of years. But with talent like Sam Kerr at their disposal, they should never be counted out from finding form and running through the tournament.

On the men’s side, it’s hard to look past Brazil, who claimed gold in Rio after a stunning penalty shoot-out in the gold medal match against Germany. The silver medallists in 2016 will also be in Group D with the Brazilians, with both the heavy favourites being pitted against each other in the group stages.

The Olyroos will be keen to prove themselves on the world stage (Photo: Socceroos)

Outside of that, the draw completely opens up. Spain and Argentina, who both sit in Group C with Australia, loom as big prospects for gold, considering the wealth of football talent they both possess. Host side Japan will be locked in a battle with France in Group A, with both sides intent on claiming a medal. In Group B, expect South Korea to challenge heavily, as New Zealand will also be along for the ride in hope of a podium finish.

Australian Squads

With the football event heating up in Rio, Australia has pulled out all the stops with two talent-laden teams heading to Tokyo for what should be an even bigger instalment.

Matildas Squad

NamePositionOlympic Games
Lydia WilliamsGoalkeeper2nd (2016)
Teagan MicahGoalkeeperDebut
Alanna KennedyDefender2nd (2016)
Steph CatleyDefender2nd (2016)
Clare PolkinghorneDefender2nd (2016)
Ellie CarpenterDefender2nd (2016)
Aivi LuikDefenderDebut
Emily van EgmondMidfielder2nd (2016)
Elise Kellond-KnightMidfielder2nd (2016)
Tameka YallopMidfielder2nd (2016)
Chloe LogarzoMidfielder2nd (2016)
Kyra Cooney-CrossMidfielderDebut
Sam KerrForward2nd (2016)
Hayley RasoForwardDebut
Caitlin FoordForward2nd (2016)
Emily GielnikForwardDebut
Kyah SimonForward2nd (2016)
Mary FowlerForwardDebut

Olyroos Squad

NamePositionOlympic Games
Daniel ArzaniForwardDebut
Nathaniel AtkinsonDefenderDebut
Keanu BaccusMidfielderDebut
Nicholas D’AgostinoForwardDebut
Thomas DengDefenderDebut
Mitchell Duke*ForwardDebut
Denis GenreauMidfielderDebut
Thomas GloverGoalkeeperDebut
Joel KingDefenderDebut
Ashley Maynard-BrewerGoalkeeperDebut
Riley McGreeMidfielderDebut
Connor MetcalfeMidfielderDebut
Dylan PieriasMidfielderDebut
Reno PiscopoForwardDebut
Kye RowlesDefenderDebut
Harry SouttarDefenderDebut
Ruon Tongyik*DefenderDebut
Caleb WattsMidfielderDebut

The football competition kicks off with the women’s tournament on July 21, with the men’s competition commencing the following day.

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