Australia’s U-23 football team will begin a two-match series tomorrow night, when they take on New Zealand’s U-23 team at WIN Stadium in Wollongong.
The second match will take place at Campbelltown Stadium on Monday, and the series will act as preparation for January’s qualification tournament for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
The vast majority of the squad features in the A-League, with AGF left back Alex Gersbach the sole player based overseas.
Young Western Sydney Wanderers right back Tate Russell, who was born in Wollongong, features in the squad and will potentially get the opportunity to make his first U-23 appearance in his home city.
Five players from Melbourne City were selected to be in the squad – the most of any A-League club. Nathaniel Atkinson, Denis Genreau, Thomas Glover, Connor Metcalfe and Lachlan Wales could all make appearances in the upcoming friendlies.
Three players from new club Western United have been selected, including Sebastian Pasquali, who recently returned to the A-League after a short stint overseas.
Olyroos matches in Australia over the last decade have been rare, and they have not featured in their home country as much as the Socceroos. These two encounters will give the Australian football public the rare opportunity to see them up close.
The 2020 AFC U-23 Championship, the tournament in which qualification for the upcoming Olympic Games occurs, will be held in Thailand. The draw for the group stage will take place on 26 September.
Japan have already qualified for the Olympics, due to the country being the host nation. As a result, if they reach the semi-finals of the U-23 Championship, the other semi-finalists will automatically confirm their places in the Olympic Games.
This means that both strong performances and results are needed to ensure that the Olyroos reach this stage.
The Olyroos last appeared in the Olympic Games in 2008, which included a meeting with an Argentina side that featured players such as Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria.