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Déjà Roos

If the Olyroos’ opening round group at the Beijing Games has a familiar look, that’s because it’s very similar to that of 2004. Re-attach Montenegro to Serbia and replace Côte D’Ivoire with Tunisia, and you have the Olyroos’ round-robin opponents from Athens.

The task will be much tougher this time around, however. At the last event, the Serbia-Montenegro side was beset by internal squabbles just prior to the event, resulting in a virtual B team being sent to Greece…where it was comfortably thrashed by both Argentina (the eventual champions) and Frank Farina’s Australia side. It’s unlikely that the Serbians, runners-up at the European Under 21 championship, will suffer such a crippling fiasco twice in a row.

Argentina will surely be the favourites for the group. Leo Messi, Fernando Gago, Sergio Aguero, Ever Banega…the talent at Sergio Batista’s disposal is frightening. The Ivorians deserve respect as well; sub-Saharan African teams have a proud recent history in the Olympic football tournament.

So where does that leave the Olyroos? In my view, this is a slightly more talented bunch overall than the 2004 crew, but some of the players – Mark Milligan and Nathan Burns in particular – have suffered dips in form recently. Graham Arnold has indicated that he is likely to draft in the three permitted over-age players for the event, and one can understand his logic, given that the old-timers were responsible for four of the six goals Australia scored in 2004.

The Olympic football tournament, as I’ve often argued, is not of earth-shaking relevance from a developmental point of view. Yet the usual knee-jerk opinion pieces will no doubt proliferate should Arnold’s charges fail to progress to the quarter-finals. If the Olyroos do indeed fall at the first hurdle, you might hear a sibilant whisper emanating from the general direction of Artarmon. That would be Les Murray mouthing the word “crisis”.

In reality, the achievement of fighting through two Asian qualifying stages to reach the tournament was impressive enough in itself, and a good result in Beijing would be something of a bonus.

Written by Mike Salter

Read more of his thoughts at The Football Tragic

Written by
Real Football

Published on April 22, 2008

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