Olyroos have destiny in their hands despite loss to Spain

We’re sorry, this service is currently unavailable. Please try again later.


Olyroos have destiny in their hands despite loss to Spain

By Michael Lynch

The Olyroos can still dare to dream of an Olympic medal, but their task has become tougher after they succumbed to a late goal to suffer a 1-0 defeat against Spain on Sunday night.

Graham Arnold’s men had defended bravely all night and looked to be on course for the point that would have put them in pole position for a place in the last eight until Spain captain Mikel Oyarzabal struck with a header 10 minutes from time.

Mikel Oyarzabal celebrates his goal.

Mikel Oyarzabal celebrates his goal.Credit:AP

The result means that Spain now top the group with four points, while Australia are second on goal difference with three, just ahead of Argentina (who beat Egypt 1-0 earlier in the evening), also with three.

Egypt have one point and will need to beat the Olyroos in their final game to stand any chance of going through. Australia need at least a draw to give itself a chance.

Some Olyroos will miss the final group game after picking up yellow cards.

Some Olyroos will miss the final group game after picking up yellow cards.Credit:AP

Spain huffed and puffed, pushed, passed and probed in a bid to find a route to goal but could not make their way through the robust, resilient and desperate Australian rearguard in which beanpole centre-back Harry Souttar and right-back Nathaniel Atkinson worked tirelessly.

The Olyroos maintained concentration as Spain piled on the pressure until Oyarzabal broke their hearts with his late goal.

Spain had by far the bulk of possession but the fact they were held at bay so long was down to the strength of Australia’s defensive organisation and the hard work of the Olyroos midfielders, who dropped deep and assisted the back four.

Still, Spain had their chances in both halves. In the 20th minute teenager Pedri, who played for the senior team in the most recent Euros, had a shot from the edge of the area saved by Tom Glover.


A minute later Oyarzabal saw his shot from the left side of the penalty area beat Glover only to crash to safety off the underside of the bar.

Australia stayed compact and looked to hit Spain sporadically on the break, with Daniel Arzani – who drew several early fouls which led to Oscar Gil receiving a yellow card – their main outlet.

But as the first half wore on it became harder for Australia to find space and time to generate any sort of threat as the Spaniards pressed them high up the pitch.

Knowing their Olympics were on the line, Spain stepped up a gear in the second half as they chased the win they desperately needed. The Australians dug in and did what they did through the first half – defended deep and put their bodies on the line.

It was one-way traffic after the restart as the Olyroos stood tall under the onslaught and Spain looked to play intricate passing movements to break down Australia’s massed ranks at the back.


Riley McGree, Atkinson and Mitchell Duke both picked up yellow cards, their second in as many games, meaning they will miss the final group stage match against Egypt that will determine Australia’s fate.

Spain’s frustrations grew as Glover held Dani Olmo’s 70th-minute shot and kept out another from Pedri. But the Melbourne City goalkeeper could do little to prevent Oyarzabal’s header, which broke the group wide open.

Never miss a medal or great sporting moment with our Olympic update emailed daily. Sign up for our Sport newsletter here.

Most Viewed in Sport