Olyroos poised for return to Games action

Coach Graham Arnold has praised the Olyroos' mentality as their Tokyo Games kick-off looms.
Coach Graham Arnold has praised the Olyroos' mentality as their Tokyo Games kick-off looms.

The 13-year wait for the Olyroos is almost over with coach Graham Arnold insisting his players are in peak condition to shine at the Tokyo Games.

Australia's men's football team have missed the past two Olympics, their most recent appearance was a group stage exit at Beijing in 2008.

The Olyroos open their campaign against Argentina in Sapporo on Thursday (2030 AEST) with Egypt and Spain completing the Group C picture.

"Preparation has been very good," said Arnold, whose side benefited from two hit-outs against New Zealand in the city of Ichihara.

"We had the training camp early in J-Village and then moved to Ichihara, so we've had a good three weeks together.

"We've worked extremely hard on the training pitch and on the game plan, but also on getting the players fit.

"The players showed against New Zealand that their fitness levels are extremely high."

Australia recovered from an opening 2-0 defeat to New Zealand to beat their Trans-Tasman rivals 1-0 in the second game.

Mitch Duke's early strike secured a confidence-boosting win as Arnold rotated his squad to give them vital minutes.

"The two games were great to get the players on the field and gel together," Arnold said.

"But the most important thing for me is the mental side of things during this pandemic. What that will throw at different countries.

"I do believe our boys have dealt with it well and we will go out there and put in some great performances."

Argentina present a formidable first hurdle in Japan, despite being without many of their Europe-based stars after this month's Copa America success.

The South Americans won Olympic gold in 2004 and 2008 when the likes of Carlos Tevez, Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero were on their roster.

But Arnold, who has both played and coached in the J1 League, hopes his experience of Japanese football rubs off on his players.

"It's always great to come back to Japan," he said.

"It's a great country and the people are so friendly and always helpful.

"We've got a young group of players with a lot of energy, and they've shown in training that they're ready for this tournament."

Olyroos defender Thomas Deng plays for Urawa Red Diamonds in the J1 League and is also delighted to be in action in somewhat familiar surroundings.

"I played here this season and it's been good for the team to get a taste of how it is here in Japan," Deng said.

"Hopefully we'll get to play in front of some fans and it's exciting to be with the team again.

"We've had a great training camp and we can't wait for our first match."

Australian Associated Press