Olyroos Head Coach Graham Arnold is confident that his side are not just in Japan to ‘make up the numbers’ during the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Men’s Football Tournament.
The Olyroos kick off their first Olympic campaign in 13 years on Thursday evening, and despite being drawn in a strong group alongside Argentina, Spain and Egypt, are a tight-knit squad packed with the belief that they can shock the world.
The team commenced preparations at J-Village in Fukushima in early July, before playing two training matches against New Zealand while based in Ichihara City.
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Now, the squad have travelled north to Sapporo, which will play host to their first two fixtures against Argentina and Spain.
During the productive two-and-a-half-week training camp, Arnold and his coaching staff have focused on preparing their team both physically and mentally for the challenges that lie ahead.
“We come into this tournament with great expectations to go far in the tournament and win games,” Arnold said.
"I truly believe a lot in this group. In the players that we've got. It's a young group but they’ve got a lot of energy.”
While the Australian side is set to go head-to-head with some of world football’s best young talent, Arnold is encouraging his players to focus on their own personal performances.
He believes that this approach will allow individuals to express their natural talent on the global stage, as the Olyroos go toe-to-toe with their Group C rivals.
"We can only look at our own performance – 80 percent of that,” enforced Arnold. “Obviously we look at the opposition – 20 percent is what they do. All we can do is look at what we can control.
"It's a great talented squad of young players. They've got great energy. And they're ready to shock the world.
I expect some of our players to take the tournament by storm. We've got a great, talented squad. We respect the opposition. We know what their strengths are and where they're too exposed, their weaknesses, so it's more the focus on our own performance.”
During what is a challenging month for many Australians, dealing with the ongoing impact of COVID-enforced lockdowns, the Olyroos are motivated to pull off something special and boost the spirits of those back at home.
"At this moment, a lot of Australians are in lockdown with COVID-19 and we want to put a smile on their faces,” added Arnold.
"I just expect these boys to do something special. It's a great talented squad. There's great belief in the squad. That is so crucial, the boys mentally believing heavily that we can shock the world and that is the intention.
"In the past and probably for the last 20 years, just to make the Olympics was seen by Australians to be a success. We're not just here to make up the numbers, we're here to show the rest of the world what we can do.”
Defender Thomas Deng captained the Olyroos to Olympic qualification with a third-placed finish at the AFC U-23 Championship in Thailand back in January 2020.
Since then, he sealed a transfer to J.League club Urawa Red Diamonds – making him the only member of the Olyroos squad for Tokyo 2020 currently plying their trade in Japan.
"I'm very happy to be in Japan,” said Deng. “Obviously I was playing here this season and met up with the team. It's good for them to get a bit of a taste of how it is here in Japan.”
"Every opportunity that you get to represent your country, it's an honour and a privilege. I'm very excited for this tournament, to be with the team again.
"We've had a great training camp and can't wait for our first match."
The Olyroos’ opening Men’s Football Tournament encounter against Argentina kicks off at 8:30pm AEST on Thursday, 22 July.
Australian audiences can watch the action on 7mate and the 7plus app.