Past deeds will count for nothing as national coach Graham Arnold goes into overdrive to lead the Olyroos to a medal at next year’s Tokyo Olympics.
After months of inactivity due to COVID-19, the Olyroos’ road to Tokyo resumes on Thursday night with a match against A-League champions Sydney FC at Jubilee Stadium.
It’s part of a camp that also includes a game against A-League newcomers Macarthur FC at the same venue on Tuesday.
The 26-man squad that Arnold has assembled is made up almost entirely of A-League players, the exception being goalkeeper Nicholas Sorras, who plays for NPL NSW club Sydney Olympic.
Arnold said another 10 overseas-based players were also on his Olympics radar as well as Perth Glory striker Nick D’Agostino and Brisbane Roar attacker Dylan Wenzel-Halls, who aren’t in camp for fitness and border restrictions reasons respectively.
And while D’Agostino was a hero of the Australian under-23 team’s qualifying campaign in Thailand in January, Arnold said the recent inactivity and the Olympics being delayed until July next year meant it was a now a “fresh start’ for everyone vying for spots in a 18-man Games squad that could also include three over-age players.
The #Olyroos are back in action this Thursday, 12 November!
⚽️ v @SydneyFC
🏟 Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, 7pm AEDT kick off
🎟 Tickets available here https://t.co/ppqmHNm2GS
📺 Streamed live on Facebook, YouTube, Kayo & My Football Live app#AUSvSYD pic.twitter.com/kqSpR9OpMz
“I actually believe that we’re going to be better prepared for the postponed Olympics more than what we would have been if the Olympics had gone ahead (this year),” Arnold said.
“We seem to have more depth now, we have more players coming through, we’ve obviously got players overseas who can’t be here at the moment … overall you’ve got a good balance of players.
“Thailand happened 11 months ago, Thailand was a completely different group of players – it is a fresh start for everybody.
“What everyone does today moving forward will be about selection for the Tokyo Olympics.
“It’s not like I’ll be paying players back and saying ‘thank you for what you did in Thailand or what you did earlier on in the piece’.
“It’s now a fresh start. There’s been a nine-month break, players need to work hard at their clubs, they need to play at their clubs, they need to perform and perform well … we’re only allowed to pick 18 players for the Olympics and three of them possibly can be over-age.
“They’ve only got four more opportunities to impress before the Olympics as a group.”
Arnold hasn’t ruled out not selecting any over-age players in his Tokyo squad.
“You to have get clubs’ blessing for the release of over-age players. It’s not a mandatory rule in place that the clubs have to release them, so I prefer to take 18 under-23 players and go to the Olympics … and be the first football team in Australian history to win a medal at the Olympics,” he said.
“It’s players that we have, that we need to get together, and then it’s about blending the whole team together and moving forward.”
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