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Jul 22, 2021 at 11.30am UK
Argentina U23sArgentina Under-23s
Australia U23sAustralia Under-23s

Ortega (45+1'), Gaich (63'), Medina (67'), Ponce (85')
Ortega (45+3')
FT(HT: 0-1)
Wales (14'), Tilio (80')
Duke (32'), McGree (45+3'), Atkinson (48'), Metcalfe (50'), Genreau (56'), Souttar (86'), Watts (90+1')

Preview: Argentina Under-23s vs. Australia Under-23s - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: Argentina Under-23s vs. Australia Under-23s - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Thursday's Olympic Games Men's Football clash between Argentina Under-23s and Australia Under-23s, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Sports Mole

Argentina Under-23s get their Olympic Games Group C campaign underway on Thursday, when they meet Australia Under-23s at the Sapporo Dome.

While the South Americans' squad is entirely different from that which recently helped the nation to a first Copa America title in 28 years, the young Albicelestes are among the favourites to make the medal podium next month.

Match preview

Shortly before the football world shut its doors at the start of last year, Argentina emerged from the South American Under-23 Championships having sealed Olympic qualification and impressed with their enterprising play.

Though they disappointingly lost 3-0 to arch-rivals Brazil in the final game, Fernando Batista's side won the competition overall and Brighton midfielder Alexis Mac Allister was named star of the tournament; enjoying a fruitful partnership who with wide forward Julian Alvarez - now apparently a transfer target for another Premier League club, Aston Villa.

The Argentinians have only convened three times in the intervening 18 months, but have won on each occasion - most recently in pre-Games warm-ups versus Denmark and Saudi Arabia in Marbella.

In their first outing, the Danes opened the scoring in the 56th minute, but a 92nd-minute equaliser was swiftly followed by Fausto Vera of Argentinos Juniors slotting in the late winner, while a 2-0 defeat of the Saudis was more straightforward for a squad short of star quality.

While there will be some potentially Europe-bound youngsters aiming to impress in Japan, none is likely to reach the heights of past Olympic stars Lionel Messi or Carlos Tevez, who rattled in eight goals - including the gold medal-winner - in 2004.

The Messi-led Albicelestes also defended their crown by claiming gold at the 2008 event in Beijing, but as over half of the current squad still play their club football in Argentina - with several others employed in leagues as diverse as Portugal, Mexico and the USA - the odds of a golden summer this time are significantly slimmer.

Drawn in a challenging group alongside Spain, Egypt and opening opponents Argentina - with only the top two going through to the quarter-finals - Australia certainly have their work cut out to progress.

Having failed to even qualify for the past two Games, the Olyroos have only twice before reached the knockout stages of an Olympic tournament, with their fourth-placed finish at Barcelona '92 being the closest they have ever come to securing a medal for one of the globe's most competitive sporting nations.

The 2020 AFC U-23 Championship, hosted by Thailand, saw a top three finish required for Australia to make it through to this Games, and Graham Arnold's side ultimately came out on top in a tense third-place playoff with defending champions Uzbekistan for the final Asian qualification spot.

Their 1-0 win at the Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok also represented the Aussies' best ever finish in the tournament since effectively switching continents in 2006, but events since have led to doubts about their hopes in Japan.

Also manager of the senior national team, Arnold has overseen defeats to the Republic of Ireland's Under-21s, plus the Under-23 teams of Romania, Mexico and old rivals New Zealand in recent weeks. Therefore, a clash with a capable Argentina side on Thursday may prove a hurdle too high to clear for a squad comprised of A-League youngsters and a handful of England-based hopefuls, such as Manchester City's Daniel Arzani.

Argentina Under-23s form (all competitions):
  • W
  • W
  • L
  • W
  • W
  • W

Australia Under-23s form (all competitions):
  • L
  • W
  • L
  • L
  • L
  • L

Team News

Fernando Batista, who has worked in Argentina's youth set-up since 2018 having previously managed Armenia's Under-19s, has a settled squad to choose from, with most previously featuring at last year's continental Under-23 championships together.

Twenty-one-year-old centre-back Nehuen Perez - recently returned to Atletico Madrid from a loan spell at Granada - will be the Albicelestes captain, while Batista has selected just one overage player in his squad - Cadiz goalkeeper Jeremias Ledesma.

Claudio Bravo of Portland and Atlanta United's Ezequiel Barco are the team's two MLS-based players, and both are likely to start on Thursday, with the latter providing support for CSKA Moscow target man Adolfo Gaich up front.

Australia, by contrast, lack experience in their squad, but they have named senior international striker Mitchell Duke as one of their overage players. The 30-year-old forward is poised to start in attack and could link up with fellow senior Socceroos, Daniel Arzani of English champions Manchester City, and Riley McGree - currently on loan at Birmingham City.

Only eight of the squad members who qualified in Thailand have been selected this summer, including first-choice goalkeeper Tom Glover.

Argentina Under-23s possible starting lineup:
Ledesma; Herrera, Perez, Medina, Bravo; Mac Allister, Vera; Barco, Valenzuela, Urzi; Gaich

Australia Under-23s possible starting lineup:
Glover; King, Souttar, Rowles, Deng; McGree, Metcalfe, Genreau, Watts; Arzani, Duke

We say: Argentina Under-23s 2-0 Australia Under-23s

Argentina will be keen to get off to a speedy start in a tricky-looking section, particularly with a mouthwatering clash against Spain looming on the near horizon.

Their greater experience and run of pre-tournament form - which contrasts wildly with the Olyroos' recent woes - should comfortably see them over the line in a game where they are set to boss both possession and territory throughout.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting under 3.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Under 3.5:data

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