Olyroos overage player Mitchell Duke has urged Australia to produce another all-action, high-energy performance against Spain in Sapporo on Sunday, as Graham Arnold’s charges seek to record back-to-back victories against high-profile opponents in the Tokyo 2020 Men’s Football Tournament.
30-year-old Duke, who is the Olyroos’ sole overage player at Tokyo 2020, led the line against Argentina at the Sapporo Dome on Thursday evening as Australia claimed an historic 2-0 victory over their fancied opponents to send a buzz not only through the nation, but also the Australian Olympic Team based in Japan.
The Olyroos will meet Spain – who secured a point in their first fixture of the Tournament courtesy of a nil-all draw with Egypt – at 7.30pm local time on Sunday night (8.30pm AEST), with the game broadcast in Australia live and free via the Seven Network, including the 7Plus App.
“(Against Argentina) we had a high energy approach and I felt like our opponents struggles to handle that,” Duke told reporters from the island of Hokkaido in Japan’s north. “That energy helped us to create so many chances, and the three-week preparation that we had (before the Tournament) has helped us to get as fit as we need to be to take on anyone.”
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“There is still a lot to improve on. ‘Arnie’ (coach Graham Arnold) said the same thing after the game. He is nowhere near happy enough with what we did on the ball, and that’s saying something considering we created quite a few chances.”
“They (high-profile opponents) are not superhuman, they are humans just like us. We just see everyone as opponents and we believe that we can match them physically, mentally, and with the talent that we have here in the squad.”
“We don’t care what the outside think or say about our group, or who we are coming up against, we believe we can take on anyone and get the result,” he said.
With millions of Australians currently restricted in their movements due to COVID-19 lockdowns across the country, Duke echoed coach Arnold’s post-match sentiments that the team wanted to bring smiles to fans showing their support from afar.
“‘Arnie’ really wanted us to do that (make people happy) before we went out into the game,” Duke explained. “He said ‘a lot of people back in Australia are in lockdowns, let’s put a smile on their faces and bring them some enjoyment and happiness’, and I thought that we did that.”
You can tell by the reaction on social media with what we have done and how everyone has reacted. We want to build on that, and we want to keep making people proud and happy in Australia.”
While the national social media and media response to the Olyroos’ first victory in men’s football at the Olympic Games since Athens 2004 pleased Duke and the Olyroos’ camp, the marksman was equally delighted to see clips of his fellow Australian Olympic Team athletes celebrating the Olyroos’ triumph over Argentina from the Athletes’ village.
“I saw a few videos of the athletes in the village watching our game, which was awesome,” he said. “Positive atmosphere, energy, seeing that other athletes are representing Australia and doing well makes you want to do just as good, go for gold, and create that winning mentality.”
“Everyone (within the Australian Olympic Team) is just backing each other up … it’s exciting!”
A win for the Olyroos against Spain in Sapporo would secure Australia a place in the knockout phase of the Tokyo 2020 Men’s Football Tournament. Australia last participated in Men’s Football at Beijing 2008, with the Olyroos’ best outcome at an Olympic Games coming at Barcelona 1992 when the team finished fourth.