Graham Arnold has named his Olyroos squad for the Tokyo 2021 Olympic Games with just one overage player, Socceroos striker Mitch Duke.
The Olyroos have been drawn in Group C with Egypt, Spain and Argentina, and will open their campaign on 22 July in Sapporo against the Argentinians.
Coach Graham Arnold said throughout the build-up process that he wouldn't select an overage player unless necessary and has largely stuck to his guns, with Duke - a player with just nine caps - chosen ahead of Matt Leckie, Jackson Irvine, Aziz Behich, Trent Sainsbury and Mat Ryan.
Technically, Ruon Tongyik classes as an overage, but only by three days out of the eligibility dates, so that possibly had an affect on Arnold's decisions.
Duke's selection adds more power to the squad's forward line, giving the Olyroos another threat from set pieces to distract from Harry Souttar, who is also selected. For Tokyo 2021, 24-year-olds aren't classed as overage due to the games delay from COVID-19. 24-year-old Bundesliga Star Ajdin Hrustic also misses the cut.
Arnold said the team could shock the world in Tokyo.
“It is such a special moment and special time, I am really excited to get to Japan, I can’t wait,” Arnold said.
My expectations are that we are going to shock the world and we are going to go out there, play on the front foot, we’re not going to go out there trying not to lose the game, we are going out there expecting to win the game and it doesn’t matter who we play.”
“The players that have been selected they are all excited, they are all grateful for the opportunity and the chance. The strength of the Socceroos is the Olyroos and I do expect these kids to really step up.
“People might want to look at it as a ‘Group of Death’ but for me it is a ‘Group of Dreams’. It is what you dream about and you want to play these types of teams (Argentina, Spain, Egypt) and test yourself against the best in the world.”
23-year-old forward Nicholas D’Agostino said being selected to the Olympics was a proud moment in his career.
“This is unbelievable," D'Agostino said. "It has been a long road, a lot of hard work, a lot of preparation to get the mind and the body right. But I am just glad that it is finally here, that I have earned a spot, and now I just want to get over to Japan and get started as soon as possible.
"My favourite Olympic memories are of these smaller nations that go and give it their all and show the world what they are capable of. I think that’s what we want to set out to achieve – we want to go show the world that Australia can play football. I just want to go over there, put some good performances in and make my family, my country, and myself proud.”
Even 17 months on, the memory of scoring the goals that put Australia back into the Olympics for men's football still creates a buzz for D'Agostino.
"Words can’t describe that feeling to be honest, just incredible. I have watched that goal and watched that game so many times back just to re-live it, every single time it is unreal and the feeling never dies. It always creates that little buzz inside you that you just want to go out there and play and do that again."
24-year-old defender Ruon Tongyik, born in South Sudan before moving with his family to Australia aged six, said he will cherish the opportunity to wear the green and gold at an Olympics.
"It's a great honour to be able to represent Australia and it is just a wonderful feeling to be selected," Tongyik said. "I've told my family, they're super excited, and I think it is really starting to kick in for me in knowing that I am going to be an Olympian and I am going to Tokyo."
"Our community is going to be very, very happy for me. Seeing someone like myself, the history, all the trials and tribulations that I have been through as a player and as a person as well. People that I know and I do look up to, players, friends and family, they are going to be very stoked for me and I am very happy to be able to represent them as well.
"I spoke to Arnie (Graham Arnold) about his experience, being an Olympian is still something that gives him goosebumps to this day. It is something that is very special to him, and I think that as players we are going to learn from that, and we are going to experience a life changing experience."