In a huge result for Australian soccer, the Olyroos have finally qualified for another Olympic games, some 12yrs after they last achieved the feat, and the first time through the Asian conference. Coach Graham Arnold has led this team well over the past few weeks, with the Olyroos topping their group, then producing a strong performance against Syria in the quarterfinals, winning 1-0 in Extra time.
In the semi-final, they came up against a strong South Korean outfit, losing 2-0 thus missing out on playing off in the finals. However, in the 3rd place play-off for the final spot in the Olympics, facing off against the Uzbekistan, they were able to get the only goal of the game to see them clinch the trip to Tokyo.
After the Uzbeks just shaded us in the first half, however the Olyroos were able to hold them out and go in to half time wit the score 0-0. A brilliant solo goal from Nicholas D’Agostino early in the second half, capping off a strong tournament for the Perth Glory player, gave us the impetus we needed, whilst a Red Card for the Uzbeks with half an hour remaining enabled us to control and see out the game.
The result comes at an important time for Australian soccer, after recently sacked Markus Babbell gave a massive rant post-sacking about the quality of the A-League.
The magnitude of Nicholas D’Agostino brilliant solo goal can’t be ignored. It’s no secret that Australian soccer largely relies on the success of the Socceroos and their qualifying for the world cup. The ability for our U23s to qualify for another major international event is crucial to the ongoing success of both the Socceroos and the A-League as whole. What we need now though is these players getting good runs at A-League level to continue their development and grow the A-league as a whole.
The A-league at the moment is at an interesting juncture, and some serious discussions and changes need to be made. The list changes every year make it difficult to fully invest in teams, and the general churn of players on an endless round-a-bout between clubs has become farcical.
Whilst continuing to bring in new teams is viewed as the best way to grow the game by those in power, the A-league serious needs to start investing in a legitimate second division. This will provide a promotion/relegation situation which I think all leagues need to ensure that all teams are fighting it out for the full season, which will only improve the quality overall. It would also hasten the development of players across both the A-League and the lower leagues as they strive for promotion to the top league, or learn to fight off relegation.
Here’s hoping that the Olyroos qualification is just the start for these young men in their football journey, as Australian soccer needs ongoing international success to grow the game locally. It will hopefully show that we are able to grow our own players, so we do not have to continually rely on aging overseas stars to get crowds to our domestic competition. That, along with the strong changes needed to our domestic competition, is how we see soccer in this country continue to grow.