Spain climbed to the top of Group C and put themselves in the penalty area to advance to the quarter-finals of men’s Olympic soccer at the Tokyo Games after defeating Australia to claim a 1-0 victory at Sapporo Dome.
After failing to breach Oleros’ fortified defenses for nearly the entirety of the match, Spain’s dominance of the competition was rewarded in the 81st minute when Mikel Oyarzabal rose to meet a Marco Asensio cross – ensuring the win and the first goal for his country. At the Olympics at 21 years old.
Australia is now second in the group, ahead of third-placed Argentina on goal difference, with Egypt topping second place on Wednesday.
– Men’s Olympic football match schedule and bracket
– Stream ESPN FC Daily on ESPN+ (US only)
– You don’t have ESPN? Get instant pass
break the dam
You won’t have any prizes to guess until Sunday night, but Spain completely dominated play for the full 90 minutes in Sapporo. Across the first half, Luis de la Fuente’s side had 73% of the ball and made nine shots (three on goal) as their opponents failed to score a single attempt on Unai Simon’s goals. By the end of the 1990s, possession stats remained the same, while the Spaniards added six more shots and two on target while the Australians added two more effort.
However, as it has become somewhat standard for their national teams regardless of age group, Spain has been frustrated in its efforts to turn this dominance of the stat sheet into control of the scoring sheet: Oleros’ early 4-4-2 defense is largely capable of absorbing invasions Spanish forward.
Despite their attack in the first half, and despite their complete control of possession and territory, Spain was largely unable to create clear chances thanks to a combination of a resolute Australian defense and their lack of killing instinct; Oyarzabal’s effort, which hit the crossbar in the 24th minute, mustered one of the few outstanding efforts. However, while transfer opportunities should have been available to coach Graham Arnold as a result – an area that de la Fuente explicitly identified as a competition destined force – it was a frustrated face absent from Oleros. ‘ game.
There was little positivity or intent in attacking with a united goal from Australia when they got a rare chance to get the ball and work to move on. There seems to be an air of caution about getting caught and taking advantage of even the ball at the feet. And with the Spaniards menacing a score in the first 15 minutes of the second half – marked by a fatal substitution of Dani Olmo to the middle of the park from his position on the wing – Arnold moved to turn. His four-to-five defense by replacing striker Lachlan Wells with centre-back Kee Rollies signaled an increase in conservatism.
Any doubt about that determination was removed 10 minutes later when midfielder Keanu Baccus was brought in to replace the more forward-thinking Riley McGree. Lightning-fast Dylan Perillas, the player most likely to punish Spain in a quick transitional move – the best way to score at this point – was left on the bench.
Coming back to the wall completely for 30 minutes against any opposition is tough enough, but against a team with the talent of Spain, I felt bound to backfire. Expected, if you will. The opposite result came in the 81st minute when he hit Oyarzbal. The goal led to a somewhat offensive turn from Arnold, bringing forward Nick D’Agostino to central defender Thomas Deng, but given the ongoing substitutions made with the intent of holding on to a single point, there wasn’t much tactical room for Oleros. back.
After the highs that came from the victory over Argentina, the defeat against Spain inevitably calms the atmosphere around Oleros. However, even with the reservations mentioned above about the way in which the plan to ultimately achieve it was carried out, it must also be said that there is not much disadvantage in playing for a draw against a team of Spain’s quality. Although extravagant the Red He gave them an assist, and that’s important for a 1-0 defeat as well.
While Argentina’s squad in the previous game may have been largely devoid of the stellar power that the nation might have promised, there can be nothing wrong with the global talent at De la Fuente’s disposal. As was the case for the A-League teams that were home to Oleros, Spanish clubs had to release their players for the tournament, giving him a pick for the country’s top local talent.
Six members of the starting lineup he played against the Australians – Eric Garcia, Pau Torres, Pedri, Simon, Mikel and Dani Olmo – made their first national team at Euro 2020, a generation of Spain that won the European Under-21 Championship in 2019. Even in Danny’s absence Injured Ceballos and Oscar Mingezza, the frightening depth that was available to the 1992 gold medal winners was fully revealed when they dumped Real Madrid forward Asensio for Valencia’s Carlos Soler in the 68th minute.
So the disappointing result may well be in the immediate aftermath, the ability of the Australia Under-23s to hold a team with the firepower of this Spanish unit to advance 1-0 seemed fantastic as recently as 12 months ago – the growth and improvement of the Australian youth as a result of more minutes across the league Remarkably excellent in its scope.
Despite what may have emerged after the retirement of their golden generation, Australia never stopped producing players who could rise to the very best in the world – they simply grew up in a homegrown landscape built in a way that at times felt like if it was actively working against their own development. After defeating Argentina and keeping Spain with a 1-0 win, this group should send a clear message to Australian officials about what their youth can accomplish when they are in a position to succeed.
Relegated to second place in the group in the wake of the defeat, the risks to Oleros prior to their encounter with Egypt could not have been more clear. Winning, they have made it to the next round. Draw and Spain needs to lose or draw with Argentina to ensure progress. Lose, they will go home.
Ostensibly, the Egyptians will present the easiest opponents that Arnold’s team has faced so far in Tokyo; The young pharaohs, despite their status as African powers, did not carry with them the same level of greatness as Argentina and Spain. But, as demonstrated by their assertive 0-0 draw with Spain and a narrow 1-0 loss to Argentina on Sunday, coach Shawky Gharib’s side deserve respect and careful thought.
The four defenders include three members of the Egypt squad for the 2018 World Cup: goalkeeper Mohamed El-Shennawy, full-back Mahmoud Hamdy, and full-back and captain Ahmed Hegazy. The winners of the U-23 Africa Cup of Nations 2019 are a strong side and could go into the favorites against the Australians. Knowing that they must win to stand any chance of advancing to the next stage of the competitions, they will also throw everything they have into Arnold’s team.
Compounding the difficulty the team faces in the green and gold, they will also miss their star player of the tournament so far in winger Nathaniel Atkinson, as well as McGarry and striker Mitch Duke, after the trio was suspended for a yellow card. Accumulation against Spain.
However, with their chances of progress still in their hands and having already brushed aside the low expectations many gave them en route to Tokyo, the Oleros have a solid chance of fulfilling their coach’s announcement of Group C at the Olympics. The group of death but the group of dreams.