Arnold: Nobody gave us a chance - apart from us

In the lead-up to Australia's first Olympic Men's Football Tournament in over a decade, Graham Arnold continually reinforced his belief that 'the kids would shock the world'. 

On a balmy night in the North of Japan, they did exactly that. 

And putting a momentous sporting achievement aside for just a second - with millions of Australians currently back in lockdown, the win alone meant that little bit more. 

Arnold: Nobody gave us a chance - apart from us
Graham Arnold, Head Coach of Team Australia celebrates with Marco Tilio #19 after victory in the Men's First Round Group C match between Argentina and Australia during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Sapporo Dome on July 22, 2021 in Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan. (Photo by Masashi Hara/Getty Images)

In fact, it was the situation at home that was Olyroos Head Coach Graham Arnold's final piece of motivation offered up to the squad ahead of Thursday's triumph for the ages.  

"It was probably the last thing I mentioned to the players before they went on the pitch," recalled the former Olympian.

Australia, New South Wales in particular, is going through a very tough time at the moment with Covid, with lockdown and I just said to the boys, 'a lot of families are locked down at home, let's put a smile on a lot of Australian faces tonight, give them a performance they will remember'.

"I really expect that a lot of people back at home who didn't give us much chance of winning before really enjoyed that. I expect we put a lot of smiles on a lot of faces ... for tonight anyway."

Arnold was involved in both of Australia's previous Olympic meetings with Argentina, which ended in defeat at Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008. 

Ahead of their clash in Sapporo, the boss took no chances in his plans to ensure that the squad was in no way overawed by the occasion. 

"We didn't mention the name of the opposition, it's all about us," revealed Arnold.

"Sometimes when you mention a nation like Argentina's name, everyone just starts thinking of the players, Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi, and Copa America champions.

"It was more about focusing on ourselves for the last week and making sure all the players knew their roles, their jobs and building a lot of belief in the players that we could go out there and put in a good performance and win the game."

And in the end, it would prove to be a case of third time lucky. 

A strike from the NSW Central Coast's Lachie Wales inside 15 minutes and an instantly iconic strike from 19-year-old Marco Tilio, seconds into his Olyroos debut, sealed Australia's first-ever Olympic football victory against South American opposition. 

But while they savoured the moment as much as anyone, Arnold and his coaching staff immediately switched their focus to what lies ahead. 

"That's our second win this century," said Arnold. "We won one game in 2004. It's a great win, but we've done nothing yet."

It's three points, we're off to a great start, the first win, but the important thing is improvement. Nobody would have given us a chance apart from us.

"I've been visualising this performance for the last couple of weeks, I even visualised the score. I believe in these boys and I believe so much in them that I'm not happy with our overall performance. I was happy with the work rate, the energy, but at times we turned over the ball too simply and too easily. We need to improve as we go on, and we will.

"We are here to compete for a gold medal. In the past, in the history of the Olympics, everyone's seen it as a success just to make the Olympics. I don't see that, we're here to compete for a medal like every other team and I expect improvement in the next game."

In camp, the celebrations were short-lived as the Olyroos prepare to return to action in just over 48 hours' time. 

Another mammoth tie, this time against an incredibly talented Spanish squad, beckons. 

And with Spain having been held to a scoreless stalemate by Egypt on matchday one, a giant opportunity beckons to secure passage to the knockout stages of the tournament - taking one step closer to that elusive first Olympic footballing medal for our nation. 

READ MORE: Football community erupts as Olyroos 'shock the world' v Argentina

MATCH REPORT: Olyroos 2 Argentina 0  - ‘Oh what an Olyroo night’

Filed Under: Olympics 2020