Olyroos coach Graham Arnold insists the Australian team is in the hunt for gold after stunning Argentina 2-0 in their Tokyo Games opener.
Lachlan Wales and Marco Tilio scored in Sapporo on Thursday as the Olyroos took control of their section, with Group C rivals Egypt and Spain battling out a goalless draw earlier in the day.
Arnold, who had declared before the game that his side would “shock the world”, said: “We’ve been building the belief in the boys that they can do this.
“We are here to compete for a gold medal, we’re not here to compete with the numbers.
“I know in the past that it’s seen just as a success to make the Olympics.
“I don’t see that. We’re here to compete for a medal like all the other teams.”
— Olyroos (@Socceroos) July 22, 2021
A combative contest saw 10 players booked and Argentina defender Francisco Ortega sent off before half-time.
But the Olyroos held their nerve in sapping conditions and Arnold said that during difficult times it was a result to put smiles on Australian faces back home.
He said: “It was probably the last thing I mentioned before the boys went on the pitch.
“Australia – New South Wales especially – is going through a tough time at the moment with COVID-19.
“I said to the boys there’s a lot of families at home in lockdown, let’s put a smile on a lot of Australian faces and give them something they will remember.
“There were probably a lot of people back home who didn’t give us a chance of winning the game before but really enjoyed that tonight.
“Sometimes when you mention the name of a nation like Argentina everyone starts thinking of Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi and them being Copa America champions.
“But it was more about focusing on ourselves for the last week and making sure that all their players knew their roles and jobs.
“We had to have the belief that we could win the game.”
Western United forward Wales was originally an alternate player before the squad was expanded to 22.
The 23-year-old would also have missed the Olympics had they been held in its original slot last year.
Wales was suspended for unprofessional conduct that ran through until August 10, 2020.
“Things happen in football for a reason,” Wales told the Seven Network.
“I was lucky enough to get a second chance by Arnie and the squad’s been really welcoming to me to come back into the games. It’s an unreal feeling, like such hard work.
“To all the Australians out there: it’s such a big moment in football.
“The opposition are one of the biggest nations in the world and tonight we shocked the world.
“Hopefully, we can keep shocking the world as we move on through the tournament.”
The Olyroos are in action again on Sunday, against Spain in Sapporo.