The Olyroos have been eliminated from the Tokyo Olympics after a 2-0 loss to Egypt at Miyagi Stadium on Wednesday night.
A win would have guaranteed Australia;s progression to the quarter-finals, and a draw would have been enough in hindsight too, but Egypt were too strong throughout the match and took their chances in front of goal.
There was a clear gulf in class between the Australians and their opponents, particularly in the first half with Amhed Rayan opening the scoring after a dominant period from the North Africans.
The green and gold – missing Mitchell Duke, Riley McGree and Nathaniel Atkinson through suspension – battled valiantly to get back in the game in second half, but squandered a number of golden opportunities, with Egypt goalkeeper Mohamed El-Shenawy making two vital saves.
Against the run of play, Egypt sealed the win in the 85th minute through Amar Hamdy, who have now managed to progress to the quarter-finals with Spain, despite starting the night as bottom of the group.
Egypt started the better of the two teams right from the outset, pushing forward to create three opportunities in the opening five minutes.
Salah Mohsen blazed over the bar after a corner was nodded back across goal, while Taher Mohamed nearly nipped in for one-and-one opportunity after the ball went over Harry Souttar’s head, but Olyroos goalkeeper Tom Glover claimed the heavy touch from the Egyptian attacker.
Mohsen again had a chance to open the scoring shortly after from a ball floated in behind, but he again skied his shot as the Australians struggled to close down the space on the flanks.
The Egyptians continued to dominate the attacking play, finding space at will behind Australia’s wing-backs, with a couple of crucial blocks from Olyroos defenders stopping shots from the top of the area.
It took the Olyroos until mid-way through the half to create their first chance, with Dylan Pierias getting to the byline down the right ,before spearing a cross through the penalty area that was too high for striker Nick D’Agostino.
It was D’Agostino who had Australia’s first effort on goal, harmlessly heading over the bar from a deep position after Lachlan Wales’ cross from the left wing.
The Olyroos slowly worked their way into the game but it was Egypt who struck first on the stroke of half-time.
Ramadan Sobhi managed to get around Souttar rather easily at the byline before setting up Rayan, who easily side-footed into the net.
Australia was clearly given a stern talking to by coach Graham Arnold in the sheds, as they came out with renewed purpose to start the second half with Daniel Arzani and Keanu Baccus coming on to replace Pierias and Denis Genreau.
Joel King threatened on two occasions after getting forward from his left-back position, with the green and gold looking more likely to carve out chances after the two half-time substitutions.
Arzani then had a golden opportunity to equalise after being set up by Marco Tilio, but his shot was straight at Egyptian goalkeeper Mohamed El-Shenawy.
Akram Tawfik was lucky not to see a second yellow card in the 59th minute, but the referee opted to just give the midfielder a warning after he slid through Thomas Deng.
Sobhi again threatened after getting in behind, but Glover came out to smother the ball and a foul was given after the ball deflected off the former Stoke City winger’s hand.
With the Olyroos chasing an equaliser, Arnold decided to bring on Crystal Palace defender Jay Rich-Baghelou as a striker, with his height designed to trouble the Egyptian backline.
Egypt nearly sealed the game in the 70th minute after more class work from Sobhi, as Hamdi struck the crossbar with a shot, before the latter couldn’t head into an empty net.
Arzani continued to work his way into the game and would have had an equaliser if it wasn’t for a magnificent save from El-Shenawy.
The Manchester City-owned winger slalomed his way through two defenders before launching a shot on goal that would have been net bound if not for the Egyptian goalkeeper.
From the resulting corner, El-Shenawy made another terrific save from Deng’s excellent downward header.
But Australia’s failure to take their chances was their undoing in the end, as Egypt struck the fatal second goal when Hamdi profited from Glover’s spill, after the Aussie goalkeeper couldn’t grasp Nasser Mansy’s shot.
El-Shenawy underlined his man-of-the-match performance by denying Olyroos substitute Caleb Watts in stoppage time.
Source: Kieran Francis