The Olyroos’ Olympic campaign kicked off in stunning fashion but ended raising even more questions of coach Graham Arnold after a dejecting 2-0 loss to Egypt.
Needing just a point to progress through, Arnold and Australia were accused of playing far too defensively, particularly given the situation their opponent found itself.
Egypt were in need of all three points and lifted in a far superior performance to that of the Olyroos, whose shock 2-0 win over Argentina faded to become a distant memory.
That brilliant performance and the arrival of generation next that came with it will provide a source of comfort to some – that Australian football is in good hands for the future as the likes of Nathaniel Atkinson, Marco Tilio and Daniel Arzani continue to develop.
But questions were asked as to whether the latter two’s development was stunted by not getting more time playing together.
After all, the two thrive when playing alongside each other.
One of the more contentious decisions Arnold made in Wednesday’s defeat was the reluctance to unleash Arzani off the bench, only doing so once the team was a goal down.
At that point the Olyroos were in desperate need of spark in attack but some will argue that should have been the mindset from the start.
Arzani’s energy off the interchange could have worked in their favour against tired legs and given his lack of match fitness it may have made sense to play him on limited minutes.
It was the youngster who came closest to scoring in the second stanza.
But to look at the side’s campaign more broadly, in the opening game against Argentina they played like they had nothing to lose.
Yet when it all went on the line the Olyroos shied away from that approach and instead decided to embrace a defensive mindset while Egypt capitalised on poor passing.
There is little doubting this was a tough group for Australia and that in reality, prior to the tournament one win and two losses would have been an acceptable result.
But given the opening score against Argentina it instead ended up feeling like a missed opportunity.
“So in the end the opening game was wasted, congratulations Egypt,” Mark Bosnich posted on Twitter.
“Just a small observation… setting up defensively against a team who hadn’t scored yet all tournament is a recipe for sowing seeds in your players minds that ‘we cannot be our true selves’. It leads to doubt.”
Arnold himself though hinted post-game that the lack of energy and firepower in attack may have also come down to fatigue from the two prior matches.
After all, Atkinson, Riley McGree and Mitch Duke were all missing through suspension.