A settled Olyroos line-up is set for a shake up on Wednesday night, with a number of A-League starlets in line to fill the void left by three suspended regular starters in a do-or-die clash with Egypt at Tokyo 2020.
Nathaniel Atkinson, Riley McGree and Mitchell Duke will all miss Australia's final Group C clash in the Men's Football Tournament, with Graham Arnold's side in need of at least one point to be sure of progressing to the knockout stage of the competition.
Arnold utilised the same starting XI in both of Australia's prior fixtures against Argentina and Spain, handing consecutive starts to seven players who featured in the 2020/21 A-League campaign, with a further handful of fellow A-League players receiving their opportunities off the bench.
But the trio of suspensions will force Arnold's hand when Australia meet Egypt at Miyagi Stadium. With gaps to plug in defence, midfield and attack, there are a number of A-League talents in line to receive their chance in the starting XI as the Olyroos look to secure a point or more in their final Group C outing.
Keanu Baccus is a standout candidate to fill the gap left by Riley McGree in Arnold's midfield.
A regular starter for Arnold in the Olympic qualification process, Baccus would offer less creative guile than the suspended McGree. But the Western Sydney Wanderers midfielder would bring control and an abundance of energy to the engine room, with fresh legs to burn and an eagerness to regain his position in Arnold's preferred starting XI.
Baccus has received 19 minutes to date from two Olympic appearances off the bench for the Olyroos.
Cameron Devlin would offer the Olyroos similar solidity and energy in the middle of the park as Baccus, while Reno Piscopo is the closest like-for-like replacement for McGree at Arnold's disposal, with creativity, flair and ambition at the heart of all of his midfield play. But the two A-League midfielders have not yet featured in an Olyroos squad for either Olympic fixture, giving Baccus the advantage in the tussle for ascendancy in the midfield pecking order.
In attack, Nicholas D'Agostino looms as a likely replacement for Mitchell Duke to spearhead Australia's attack against Egypt.
D'Agostino showed his appetite for the big moments in Olympic qualification as his goal in a 1-0 win over Uzbekistan at the AFC U-23 Championship secured Australia's spot at Tokyo 2020.
The former Perth Glory forward has received minimal opportunities in Australia's two fixtures at the Games to date, but his aggression, strength and aerial prowess hold D'Agostino in excellent stead to replace what Duke has brought to the side to date.
Another A-League forward pressing for selection in Arnold's starting lineup is Melbourne City teen Marco Tilio, who took his chance to impress in a cameo off the bench in Australia's 2-0 win over Argentina, scoring with his second touch in the Olyroos' memorable win. But with D'Agostino offering physical similarities to the unavailable Duke, Arnold may elect to go with the former Perth striker from the start.
In place of Melbourne City full-back Nathaniel Atkinson, Western United utility Dylan Pierias could be handed his first Olympic minutes against Egypt.
The electric winger has spent time at right full-back and right wing throughout the past two seasons at club level, earning Western United's Young Player of the Season award for 2020/21 off the back of an impressive A-League campaign.
The 21-year-old registered six goals and one assist for the Green and Black in 2020/21. His pace is a genuine weapon at Arnold's disposal, and could be used to Egypt's expense should the Olyroos boss decide to fill the void left by Atkinson with Western United's speedster.
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