The 2016 AFC U23 Championship also acting as the qualifiers for the 2016 Olympics, will take place in Qatar between 12th – 30th January.
A total of 16 Asian national teams will be vying for the top three spots, which will guarantee them a place in Rio de Janeiro in August. Australia are pooled with Jordan, UAE and Vietnam in Group D and kick start their campaign against the UAE on the 14th January at Grand Hamad Stadium in Doha.
The Olyroos topped their group last time round in 2013, but then were defeated by Saudi Arabia in the quarter finals, so are hoping to go one better in 2016.
Head Coach Aurelio Vidmar named eleven players from the Hyundai A League and twelve from overseas clubs for the qualification matches. They had an easy run to the finals defeating Hong Kong (6-0), Mayanmar (5-1) and Chinese Taipei (4-0).
Brisbane Roar’s Jamie Maclaren has already made a mark for the Oyroos becoming the second highest goal scorer in the qualification matches. Maclaren started his international career playing for Scotland U19s because of his dual citizenship and earned two caps before playing a part for Australia in the 2013 FIFA U20 World Cup.
In recent friendlies, the Olyroos have had mixed success having being beaten twice by Korean republic twice in successive matches 2-0 and 2-1 in Incheon.
Their first match against the UAE on the 14th January should shape up as a good first test for the Aussies. In November, the UAE had one loss and one win to Saudi Arabia, the team that put the Olyroos out of the 2013 version of the tournament, so the UAE will be no easy beats.
“We’ve got a lot to make up for missing out last time. We had UAE in our final group four years ago so that’s also a nice one to hopefully get one back on them”, said Vidmar.
Jordan have a friendly against Iraq U23 on the 24th December and play their first group match against Vietnam on the 15th January. Recent form has not been the best losing to Palestine (1-0) and Qatar (2-1) in the 2015 WAFF U23 Olympic Teams Championship where they ranked 8th missing out on a semi-final berth.
Vietnam U23 friendly against the J league’s Cerezo Osaka ended in a 2-2 draw with the Japanese professional team holding most of the possession. Other matches against minnows Indonesia (5-0) and a loss to Myanmar (2-1), a team that the Olyroos defeated convincingly, round off the group.
The Olyroos first real test will probably be against either Iraq or South Korea in the quarter finals.
By Paul BrownGoogle+