The final sixteen teams are now confirmed for the AFC U23 Championship 2020.
For the Olyroos, it’s not going to be an easy path to Tokyo. Only three of the sixteen qualify for the Olympics, with Japan having made it as host country.
The countries include: Thailand, Australia, Qatar, Bahrain, Iraq, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Uzbekistan, Korea Republic, North Korea, Japan, China, Iran, Vietnam, Syria and Saudi Arabia.
It’s no secret Asian countries are progressing at a rate of knots. Qatar are fresh from an Asian Cup triumph, and their U-23 team topped Group A in the qualifiers.
Bahrain topped Group B with three straight wins.
Iraq topped Group C, edging out Iran on goal-difference. It was the exact same story in Group D with the United Arab Emirates beating Saudi Arabia by a whisker (one goal) – both on equal points, and also in Group E with Jordan and Syria.
As you can see competition at the top is incredibly tight.
The big question for the Australian U-23s is what happens next.
“We don’t qualify for these junior tournaments because we don’t prepare for them,” Socceroos and Olyroos head coach Graham Arnold told media today.
There are five international breaks between now and next January 2020. It’s imperative the Olyroos maximise each FIFA window to prepare for the tournament proper, to better their chances at qualifying for the Olympics.
Fail to do so and Australia’s drought will continue.