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Tokyo Olympics – Preview: Australia determined not be intimidated by Argentina

Tokyo: Australia will not be overawed by heavyweight opponents Argentina and will instead focus entirely on their own game in the Tokyo Olympic opener on Thursday, according to head coach Graham Arnold.

Appearing in men’s football at the Games for the first time since Beijing 2008, the Olyroos are considered outsiders in a daunting group featuring Argentina, Spain and Egypt.

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The South Americans are the first obstacle in Australia’s path, and they have arrived in Japan with a suitably impressive squad featuring a bevy of players with top-level experience in Europe as well as their homeland..

Argentina have won two FIFA World Cups and two Olympic gold medals, the most recent coming when a Lionel Messi-inspired dream team claimed the title in Beijing, but Arnold is eager for the Australians to not be intimidated on account of their opponents’ storied history in the game

“We’ve removed all the names of the teams,” Arnold told Australian media ahead of the tournament kick-off.

“All those teams (in Group C) have a great history, and they have a great brand, but I’m 99 percent sure that if I put 11 yellow bibs on our boys and 11 red bibs on the other team with no logo and no branding; we will win the game.

“We don’t mention the opposition anymore. We play an opponent on the 22nd of July, and we will be ready to play them, just making sure that we focus on ourselves."

“We do respect those countries enormously, but this is about us. If we keep mentioning the Argentines, the Argentines, the Argentines everybody thinks “Messi” or “Maradona” and how successful they are as a team, but we’re not playing against them.

“We don’t want to walk down the tunnel 1-0 down because of the shirt.”

While Messi and Maradona are not present in Tokyo, Fernando Batista’s current Argentine squad arrives with no shortage of talent.

The two Ezeqiuels – Ponce and Barco – have established themselves as highly coveted attacking players for Spartak Moscow and Atlanta United, while Thiago Almada and Pedro de la Vega are future stars still plying their trade, for now, in Argentina.

Australia, on the other hand, arrived with 14 of their 22-man squad provided by A-League clubs, with the major European experience coming largely from English-based players Harry Souttar, Riley McGree and Southampton youngster Caleb Watts.

The Olyroos are likely to look to Mitchell Duke for goals, with the 30-year-old appearing as the sole overage player in Arnold’s squad, while many will be eager to see what role Daniel Arzani plays after a testing few years since the talented winger burst onto the scene ahead of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Australia and Argentina have met twice before in Olympic competition, with the South Americans winning 1-0 in 2004 and 2008 before going on to clinch gold on both occasions.

Argentina v Australia
Venue: Sapporo Dome
Kickoff: 19:30 (UTC+9)

Photos: Football Australia, AFP

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