Tévez-Aloisi: a sharpshooter's duel in Athens
Argentina and Australia, two of the biggest noises in this year's Olympic Football Tournament, tonight swap the cool ocean breezes of Patras for the sweltering heat of Athens as they go head to head in their eagerly awaited Group C showdown. The Albiceleste, with their prolific striker Carlos Tévez, will be hoping to secure top spot in the group, while the Socceroos will be looking to their astute front man John Aloisi to steer them into the quarter-finals.
With Bielsa's protégés having scored eight goals in two games and Farina's men another six, all the signs are that supporters and neutrals are in for an action-packed night at the Karaiskaki Stadium. The presence of the tournament's joint top scorers - Tévez and Aloisi, with three apiece - is sure to generate plenty of goalmouth action as the pair seek to add to their tallies.
The rise and rise of Carlos Tévez
From the moment the 20-year-old burst onto the Argentine domestic scene three years ago, the name Tévez has been on everyone's lips. First there were his mercurial displays at the FIFA U-17 World Championship Trinidad and Tobago 2001; followed by an impressive couple of seasons at Boca Juniors, where his explosive running from midfield played a key part in the Argentine club's recent haul of silverware. Despite the player's controversial absence from the FIFA World Youth Championship UAE 2003, the Buenos Aires-born marksman seems to have found a regular place in Marcelo Bielsa's line up.
The striker's first full international came against Paraguay during this year's South American qualifiers for Germany 2006. Tévez's impressive debut would be a sign of things to come: a starting place and some exquisite goals during the Copa América 2004 which has carried over to the Athens Olympics. "I'm scoring now on a regular basis, and that's something I'm really thrilled with," the player told FIFA.com after scoring the second headed goal of his international career against Tunisia.
Born in the capital's Fuerte Apache district in 1984, "Carlitos", as he is known to friends, has made the No. 10 jersey worn by his idol Diego Maradona all his own. "I was fortunate to settle in very quickly in the squad. I'd say the key was just playing my own game and putting everything I had into it," he remarks. His contribution so far at the Games has been more than impressive: three goals in two outings, which has made him the competition's joint top scorer.
In spite of some dazzling solo performances, the player, who like his idol Maradona talks a good game on and off the field, preferred to focus on the team's ambitions over his personal aims: "the most important thing is that we bring home a medal, that's why we're here. If we can achieve that, then of course finishing as the tournament top scorer would be a bonus."
The next challenge facing the South American giants is Australia. Having seen the defensive formats employed by both Serbia and Montenegro and Tunisia, the question must be asked, what will his side do if their next rival adopts the same approach?
"We just have to keep moving the ball around, use the width of the pitch, and wait patiently for spaces to exploit. To be honest, I was a bit surprised that they tried to play us that way, I wasn't expecting that. I suppose as long as we keep on winning, teams will try to stifle our play," says the forward who likes to celebrate every goal in a unique way. "My team-mates and I are always planning our next goal celebration," he remarks cheerfully.
The power of John Aloisi
Strength, determination, sacrifice, and timing are just some of the calling cards of John Aloisi, the Australian striker currently on the books of Spanish club Osasuna. The "Kangaroo" as he is known to Spanish fans, was one of Frank Farina's three overage inclusions in the Olympic side. After a hesitant opening game against Tunisia, the strapping six-footer found his range against Serbia and Montenegro where he scored three goals.
Born in Adelaine 28 years ago, Aloisi is determined to use the wealth of experience he has accumulated playing for a host of European clubs. His conviction is all the greater given that his call up was entirely unexpected "because of my age". Coincidentally, the striker is following in the footsteps of his brother Ross, who played Olympic football for Australia in Atlanta 96. "I just hope we can get a result that will see us through to the next round. I remember Ross was inconsolable in 1996 after the team's early exit," said the player.
After drawing with Tunisia and beating Serbia and Montenegro, Aloisi is well aware that the Argentina match will be perhaps the toughest game they will face in the competition. "They are a formidable side, with some vastly experienced players from Europe's top leagues. Without a doubt, they're the tournament favourites," said the player who admitted feeling "a bit of extra pressure as one of the senior members of the squad".
A point would be good enough to guarantee Australia a place in the quarter-finals and bring Aloisi a step closer to achieving one of his goals: to bring a medal back from Athens. His other target, "to score a few goals", is already coming along nicely.