The Australia U23 squad that features Jonathan Aspropotamitis and Keanu Baccus will kick-off in their first match of the 2018 AFC U23 Championship tonight against Syria.
The squad named by former Wanderers assistant coach Ante Milicic sees 15 players selected in the side currently contracted to Hyundai A-League teams, plus eight players that are pursuing their professional careers overseas.
Milicic’s squad gathered in China last week for a preparatory camp knowing that a top two finish in Group D will be required to propel Australia to the Quarter Finals of the 2018 AFC U23 Championship.
“Playing in and adapting to Asia will present many challenges, but we know the players will improve for these experiences,” said Milicic on the continental tournament.
“I have been with the senior team for the last four years and I can see how difficult it is in Asia, but also how our senior team has responded to the challenges. Experiencing different playing styles, cultures, atmospheres and traveling overseas helps players develop.
“With a FIFA World Cup just six months away this is the ideal opportunity for these players to impress.
“In our short preparation leading into the tournament we will look to build our foundations and principles of play that we believe in as Australian footballers,” concluded Milicic.
Youngster Keanu Baccus has made a name for himself in the Wanderers first team this season and says it is a huge honour to be selected in the national team for the upcoming tournament.
“I’m very happy and grateful to be selected.
“It is a huge honour. I get to play with the calibre of players that are picked so, hopefully, I can improve myself. It’s great to be playing alongside those players.”
Australia head into the competition with confidence after a strong qualification route saw them undefeated after crushing Brunei 2-0, Singapore 7-0 and Myanmar 3-0.
The green and gold will first face Syria tomorrow night before taking on Vietnam and the Korea Republic in the final matches of the group stage.
Their opponents in Group D have had mixed results during the qualification rounds.
After defeating India, Syria struggled to get three points against Turkmenistan and Qatar which ended in a 0-0 and 1-1 draw respectively.
Vietnam similarly started positively defeating the Philippines 4-0, before ending in a 0-0 tussle against Indonesia and a 3-0 thumping by Thailand.
While the Korean Republic smashed Macau 10-0 in their first qualification match and then played in a 0-0 draw against Timor-Leste before finishing the round with a 2-1 victory against Vietnam.
Tune in tonight to FOX SPORTS 501 at 7:00pm to catch the second half of the match after 'Just For Kicks'.