Australian U-23 National Team Head Coach Graham Arnold today named a 24-player squad to venture to Kuala Lumpur and onto Phnom Penh for Australia’s 2020 AFC U-23 Championship Qualification matches against Cambodia, Chinese Taipei, and Korea Republic.
A mix of Hyundai A-League-based players and eight professionals currently contracted abroad will convene in Southeast Asia next week as Australia prepares to compete in Group H of qualification from March 22 to 26.
Following the week-long camp in Kuala Lumpur – which will include a pair of friendly fixtures – Australia will shift its base to Phnom Penh where a first-place finish in Group H would seal a 2020 AFC U-23 Championship berth.
Australia would also qualify for the 2020 AFC U-23 Championship should the squad finish as one of the four best second-placed teams in qualifying.
The AFC U-23 Championship is the main vehicle for AFC qualification into the 2020 Olympics, with three sides from next January’s tournament set for an Olympic place.
Three young Newcastle Jets have been selected in the squad – Joey Champness, Johnny Koutroumbis, and Ivan Vujica.
It follows Joey and Ivan attending a mini-camp in Canberra in the lead-up to the Melbourne Victory match last weekend, where the pair did enough to earn a spot in the squad.
Johnny Koutroumbis missed that camp through injury, but given his fantastic Hyundai A-League form across the past 18 months it’s no surprise that Graham Arnold has given the young defender the nod.
Speaking about selection in the squad, Ivan Vujica said he’s determined to make the most of a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’.
"To win a Champions League or play in a World Cup would be great, but to be an Olympian is something completely different. This is our one chance to get there. It is up to us to make it happen,” Vujica said.
“It’ll be super awesome and I’m glad to be a part of it. Being a part of a camp like this and a part of the Olyroos set-up, it’s a big push and a big motivator and something great to be a part of."