It wasn’t meant to happen.
Pundits held hope, but deep down, they knew it wouldn’t happen.
And who would have disagreed?
It’s a Rolls Royce of World Football, Argentina. Home to a concoction of round ball history that has delivered the world arguably, the two greatest players of all time.
However, Australia’s game, the World Game. It doesn’t care for that.
It cares about the 90 minutes in front of it. And in this 90 minutes, the Olyroos conquered their very own Mount Olympus.
Many moons ago, head coach Graham Arnold declared this was his crop to nurture. He welcomed the tall order of managing two sides. And ran with it. looking back now, why did the Australian footballing public ever doubt him?
There hasn’t been many better in our history at dragging the best out of our youth.
From a certain Tom Rogic years earlier at the Central Coast Mariners, to the eleven who donned our colours so fiercely tonight, providing the gorgeous assist for Marco Tilio’s screamer with his first touch for the Olyroos.
Eleven young men from the four corners of earth. From Harry Souttar in Aberdeen in Scotland to Nathaniel Atkinson in Launceston and most of all, led by Thomas Deng from Nairobi, Kenya who fled to Australia as a young boy.
This result won’t be splattered across the front pages of the world’s leading editorials yet it holds an immensely special place in the mind-frame of all Australians, the result a by-product of an A-League marred by financial troubles over the past season.
Troubles Australia would have been quick to lean on had we not qualified. Alas, it seemingly forced many an A-League coach to open a door that has previously been left slammed shut, unleashing youthful talent in Australia’s domestic competition
Of the Olyroos involved in this famous triumph, seven of the starting eleven currently ply their trade in the A-League, another three began their careers in the league whilst three of our substitutions have featured heavily in Australia this past season.
This is a terrific advertisment for the game, further amplified by those already carving out careers abroad.
For captain Thomas Deng, the former Melbourne Victory defender, who was plucked by scouts during the very qualification campaign that delivered the Olyroos to Tokyo is evidence of a potential turning tide.
A tide that alongside Daniel Arzani and Riley McGree, is setting out a very particular blueprint.
Build foundations at home, develop them around the world.
One can only imagine what lays in store for Olyroos who tonight, took their foundational learning to the world stage.
As the conversation of youth development dominates the discussion surrounding the next steps the FA and APL must take, with 28% of match minutes in the A-League this season being played by U23’s illustrates the positive trajectory of Australian football, and tonight it showed.
Optimism is rampant amongst footballing circles, and the crop of 22 have delivered in their first attempt.
For now, it’s a moment to savour.
The Olyroos just vanquished a powerhouse.