The Olyroos are still just one win away from qualifying for the Olympics for the first time in 12 years, despite losing their AFC U23 Championships semi-final against South Korea 2-0 on Wednesday in Thailand.
The Australian team will have little time to recover from the disappointment of missing out on the tournament final and instead will try to re-focus its energies on Saturday’s third place play-off match against Uzbekistan, the winner of which will join South Korea and Saudi Arabia in qualifying for the 2020 Japan Olympic Games.
Both the Olyroos and Uzbekistan lost their respective semi-final matches on Wednesday, with Uzbekistan beaten 1-0 by Saudi Arabia.
The South Koreans had the Olyroos on the back foot throughout most of the game amassing 20 shots on goal to the Olyroos’ solitary effort.
The Australians’ defence, which included both Alex Gersbach (who wore the captain’s armband) and Tass Mourdoukoutas, were under pressure almost from the start. Had it not been for the strong performance of keeper Tom Glover, the losing margin could’ve easily been greater.
Kim Dae-won and sub Lee Dong-gyong each scored in the second half to ensure the Koreans a deserved place in the final decider.
Olyroos coach Graham Arnold commented after the match:
“Obviously it is disappointing tonight, but you have to take your hat off to South Korea. South Korea played very well, and we were beaten by a better team tonight,” he said. “It was a great learning curve for them, a great lesson for them and we move forward.”
Attention now turns to the third placed play-off match against the reigning AFC U23 Champions Uzbekistan.
“We have got to show, and we will show, the Aussie spirit of fighting,” said Arnold. “I said to the boys after the game ‘great effort, we did well in patches, but that game is over now, there’s nothing you can do about that. South Korea were the better team on the night. It is all now about what’s in front of us and that’s Uzbekistan on Saturday and winning that game’.”
Kick off is at 11.30 pm (AEDT) on Saturday evening.