Socceroos coach Graham Arnold is backing his Olyroos side to qualify for the Tokyo Olympic despite some notable absences. He named a 23-man squad on Monday comprising 14 A-League players and nine based overseas for January’s AFC U-23 Championship in Thailand.
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The tournament serves as Olympic 2020 qualifying, with the top three teams joining host Japan as Asia’s representatives. Though A-League clubs unconfined their young players for global duty, Arnold’s team had to exchange with foreign clubs to secure the facilities of overseas-based talent. Three training camps during FIFA windows were crucial to the squad’s gelling and preparation is given other teams were able to depart for Thailand earlier.
“That’s why we clashed so hard to get the boys out of overseas clubs and to get them here,” Arnold supposed.
“That’s why I fought so hard to have those three campsites as preparation camps in the FIFA windows and we go in there expectant to qualify.”
The Olyroos haven’t contained at the Olympics since 2008 and Arnold will have to pact with a number of lacks in January. Harry Souttar, who could be remembered from Fleetwood Town for Stoke City’s demotion battle, was not named; Arnold yielding the defender’s obtainability was “not looking great”. He supposed Daniel Arzani who has been on the retaliation trail from a knee rebuilding, had touched “not ready”.
Postponed quartet Riley McGree, Lachlan Wales, Nathaniel Atkinson, and Brandon Wilson are unobtainable but if the Olyroos secure qualification, McGree will be qualified for the Olympic 2020. Despite the nonappearances, Arnold supposed he believed he had a very sturdy squad and qualifying would be an enormous achievement.
“Since 1992, when the Olympics became an under-23 competition, especially with the Socceroos, it’s produced six or seven top Socceroos,” he said.
(Mark) Bresciano and (Vince) Grella for example, did not play for the Socceroos till after they were Olympians and the next phase in the journey for these kids to become Socceroos. And I truly believe that from what I’ve seen – and that’s why I took the job, to be able to work and get to know them mentally – I truly believe by the end of 2020, there’ll be five kids out of this group that will be part of the Socceroos squad, so it’s very important.
The Olyroos head to Kuala Lumpur for a training camp and friendly against South Korea before traveling to Bangkok. They will play Iraq, Thailand, and Bahrain in Group A of the tournament on January 8, 11 and 14 respectively. There are four groups, with the top two teams from each advancing to quarter-finals.
The two qualifiers and the winner of the third-place play-off all qualify for the Olympic 2020. If Japan, as hosts, reaches the semi-finals, the other three semi-finalists will all qualify.