23s show good signs against tough Tigers team

Australia U-23 National Team Head Coach Graham Arnold believes Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Malaysia U-23 at the Shah Alam Stadium close to Kuala Lumpur was the ‘perfect’ preparation for his squad leading up to Friday’s 2020 AFC U-23 Championship Qualification opener against Cambodia in Phnom Penh. 

After dominating the first half and crafting numerous opportunities to take the lead, the green and gold found the back of the net via a fantastic header from Perth Glory’s Brandon Wilson early in the second stanza.

The ‘young tigers’ hit back in the third minute of added time through substitute Nik Azli Nik Alias to restore parity to the encounter, however after the game Arnold explained that he felt the match represented another positive step for his squad.

“You have got to give credit to Malaysia, they put in a good performance,” Arnold told media post-game.

“But I thought that we were very, very good tonight.”

Olyroos vs Malaysia U-23s

“We need to be more ruthless in front of goal but until I made the eight changes [midway through the second half] I thought we were playing very, very well and it is perfect preparation for us because obviously everything is different – the weather, the fields, those types of things.

“We have had our first two games together as a team and now we have boys who are understanding exactly what we have to do to. It is all about the players getting used to one another and getting used to playing the way that we want them to play.

“When we were one-nil up we probably had another five great chances to go to two-nil, three-nil.

“The east-Asian nations are developing very fast and they are doing exceptionally well. Malaysia is putting a lot of money into their youth and it’s very smart, a lot of good kids appear to be coming through,” he said.

Australia will wrap up the Malaysian leg of their preparation for their 2020 AFC U-23 Championship Qualifiers on Monday and shift to Cambodia on Tuesday where three games in just five days awaits.

In Phnom Penh Australia will play Cambodia (March 22), Chinese Taipei (March 24), and Korea Republic (March 26). 

Australia will qualify for the 2020 AFC U-23 Championship should the team finish in first place in Group H in Cambodia, or emerge as one of the four best second-placed teams in qualifying.

The fifth-best second-placed team from the 11 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) groups will also qualify should Thailand – who have qualified automatically for the tournament as hosts – finish as either Group K winners or runners-up.

Before the match between Malaysia and Australia, both teams paused for a moment of silence to mourn the victims of Friday’s tragic events in Christchurch, New Zealand. Both teams also wore black armbands in the match in honour of the victims.  


Upcoming Matches | Australia U-23 National Team

Australia U-23 v Cambodia U-23 (2020 AFC U-23 Championship Qualification – Group H)
Date: Friday, 22 March 2019
Venue: Phnom Penh Olympic Stadium, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Kick-off: 6.30pm (local); 10.30pm (AEDT)

Chinese Taipei U-23 v Australia U-23 (2020 AFC U-23 Championship Qualification – Group H)
Date: Sunday, 24 March 2019
Venue: Phnom Penh Olympic Stadium, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Kick-off: 3.30pm (local); 7.30pm (AEDT)

Korea Republic U-23 v Australia U-23 (2020 AFC U-23 Championship Qualification – Group H)
Date: Tuesday, 26 March 2019
Venue: Phnom Penh Olympic Stadium, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Kick-off: 3.30pm (local); 7.30pm (AEDT)