After a rigorous qualifying campaign, Graham Arnold’s Olyroos are on the hunt for the elusive gold medal at the Tokyo Olympic Games.
Compiling some of the best under -3 talent that Australia has to offer, the Olyroos will look to bypass Egypt, Spain and Argentina on the way to a knockout stage berth. Australia’s first challenge comes in the form of Argentina who will bring a resolute, passionate and daring contest to the Olyroos.
With the wealth of talent at Graham Arnold’s disposal, it will not be easy to select a starting XI for such an important match. However, here is how I believe the Olyroos should line up against Argentina.
Goalkeeper: TOM GLOVER (Melbourne City)
The former Tottenham Hotspur youth prospect flourished as Melbourne City’s number 1 stopper on the way to a premier A-League crown. Having been nominated for the A-League’s Young Footballer of the Year in September of 2020, Glover has come on leaps and bounds while being trusted as City’s first choice keeper.
Glover will likely use the Olympics as a stepping stone to cement a move overseas.
Right Back: NATHANIEL ATKINSON (Melbourne City)
A serious hamstring injury in April threatened to curtail Atkinson’s Olympic dream, however, the Tasmanian-born utility has shaken off any injury concerns to cement himself as a crucial cog of the Olyroos.
Atkinson starred in Melbourne City’s Grand-Final triumph over Sydney FC as he was recognised with the Joe Marston Medal for his performances on the right of a front three.
The youngster is brimming with confidence and provides great versatility should Graham Arnold wish to plug a gap elsewhere in the squad.
Left Centre-Back: HARRY SOUTTAR (Stoke City)
The towering Scotsman turned Aussie demonstrated his elite aerial prowess during the Socceroos’ recent World Cup Qualifiers against Kuwait, Jordan, Chinese Taipei and Nepal. Having already established himself as a valued member of Australia’s senior side, Souttar’s 6 foot 6 inch frame will be difficult to bypass for opposition attackers.
Souttar’s ability to both attack and defend set pieces combined with his resolute defending prowess makes him an unarguable inclusion in the starting XI.
Right Centre-Back: THOMAS DENG (Urawa Red Diamonds)
Having battled injuries for the best part of 12 months, Deng has re-established himself as a valuable member of Urawa’s squad. Plying his trade for a Japanese powerhouse, Deng will already be accustomed to the Olympic surroundings and offers a good burst of pace to complement his gargantuan partner in Souttar.
Central Coast’s Kye Rowles and Crystal Palace’s Jay-Rich Baghuelou will equally vie for Deng’s spot in the starting XI, but the former Melbourne Victory defender’s leadership and composure makes him the leading contender to start.
Left Back: JOEL KING (Sydney FC)
King has burst onto the scene in the last 24 months as Michael Zullo’s successor at Sydney FC. Possessing a wand of a left foot as well as great tactical nous, King’s performance for the Harboursiders were rewarded as he was named the A-League’s Young Player of the Year last season.
King is the Olyroos stand alone left-footed full back option and will likely be entrusted with a starting position on the left of a back 4.
Central Midfield: DENIS GENREAU (Macarthur FC)
After struggling to nail down a position in Melbourne City’s starting XI, the Paris-born Scotch College graduate sought to explore greener pasture in South-West Sydney. Fortunately for Genreau, he starred under the tutelage of Ante Milicic while playing alongside Basque maestro Beñat Etxebarria and former Socceroos captain Mark Milligan in midfield.
Tough in the tackle and elegant on the ball, Genreau recently made his Socceroos debut and will look to use that experience to catapult himself towards some good performances at the Olympics.
Central Midfield: CONNOR METCALFE (Melbourne City)
A phenomenally gifted footballer, Metcalfe solidified himself at the heart of Melbourne City’s midfield while scoring and assisting goals on the way to an A-League double crown. The imposing and athletic box-to-box midfielder is an expert at arriving late in the box whilst also possessing the ability to finish on both feet with ease from within the 18-yard area.
With a passing range to match Australia’s most sublime talents, the youngster will look to cap off his meteoric rise with an Olympic medal.
Attacking Midfield: CALEB WATTS (Southampton)
A versatile midfielder with the ability to play both as a number 8 and a number 10, Watts shocked many Australians as he made his Premier League debut for Southampton last season.
Having come face-to-face with superstars Phil Foden and Sergio Agüero during his 18 minute cameo against Manchester City, the 19-year-old starlet will look to stamp his authority on the Olympics. Watts’ fast feet and eye for a pass will be a nightmare for opposition defenders.
Left Winger: DANIEL ARZANI (Manchester City)
After tumultuous loan spells at Celtic, Utrecht and AGF, Arzani has been resurrected from the abyss to re-demonstrate his prowess at the OIympics.
Having suffered a torn ACL on debut for Celtic, Arzani has struggled to recapture the form that saw him impress at the 2018 FIFA World Cup as a 19-year-old.
The former Melbourne City winger is technically gifted and skilled on the ball while possessing the ability to shoot from range. Arzani will provide a point of difference in the Olyroos’ attack which could prove crucial to their chances of proceeding to the knockout stage.
Right Winger: RILEY MCGREE (Birmingham City)
A number 10 by trade, McGree is versatile and recently demonstrated his ability to play off the right of a front 3 in the Socceroos’ World Cup Qualifiers. His performance off the right against Chinese Taipei saw him muster two assists on the way to receiving a Man of the Match award for his efforts.
The former Adelaide Utd and Melbourne City man has grown both in stature and maturity during his first season playing in the English Championship for Birmingham City.
Creative and hard-working, McGree will use his left foot to his advantage for the Olyroos.
Centre-Forward: MITCHELL DUKE (Al-Taawoun)
The squad’s solitary overage player, Duke is almost guaranteed to lead the line for the Olyroos as he seeks to use his powerful frame to his advantage. Having recently impressed for the Socceroos, Duke is in fine form and will provide a valuable crossing target for his teammates.
Despite his stature, the Western Sydney cult hero can drop into midfield and play one-twos whilst also possessing the ability to score from range.
Duke will likely shoulder the majority of the Olyroos’ scoring responsibility and will therefore have to be on top form should the Olyroos wish to proceed from the group stage.