The Olyroos will face their toughest test in their final group stage match in Phnom Penh against Korea Republic.
Korea have convincingly won all of their matches; an 8-0 thrashing of Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) followed by a 6-1 victory against Cambodia.
There’s no doubt Korea’s team come in with more experience: 22-year-old midfielder Dong-Kyung Lee applies his trade domestically at K-League powerhouse Ulsan Hyundai and 21-year-old Han Chan-hee has made over 80 appearances for Jeonnam Dragons in K-2.
Then there’s 20-year-old forward Cho Young-wook who has scored 18 goals in 37 appearances for Korea’s U-20 side and was part of the team’s U-20 World Cup campaign in 2017.
Already, Young-wook has made 46 international appearances at U-20 and U-23 level.
In comparison to some of the Olyroos forwards, Cerezo Osaka’s Pierce Waring has only made five appearances for the Joeys and Olyroos.
Renate’s winger Reno Piscopo has notched up three appearances (one for the Young Socceroos and two for the Olyroos). Brisbane Roar’s 21-year-old forward Nick D’Agostino a similar story – four international appearances at youth level.
Adelaide United’s 21-year-old George Blackwood has appeared 16 times for the Young Socceroos and nine for the Australia’s U-23s.
Last week, Olyroos head coach Graham Arnold said young players need to be getting between 15-20 international matches, but many of the players are struggling to meet this quota.
Sixteen of Graham Arnold’s 24-man squad at the qualifiers are also on the bench for their respective clubs.
The Olyroos “breezed” past Cambodia (6-0) and Chinese Taipei (6-0) as their performance is more telling and there are still outstanding areas of improvement.
Australia take on Korea tomorrow night (Tuesday 26th March, 5:00pm AEDT).
Only the winners of the group are assured of progression to the AFC U-23 Championship in Thailand in 2020 along with four of the best second-place teams.