After spending more than a week in camp in Malaysia, the Australia U/23s side will get their AFC U/23 Championship Qualification campaign underway tonight.
Three young Newcastle Jets representatives have been in camp as a part of a potential Tokyo 2020 Olyroos side – Johnny Koutroumbis, Joey Champness, and Ivan Vujica.
The trio have spent some time at various Socceroos camps over the course of the Hyundai A-League 2018/19 season, with Joey and Ivan attending one such camp in Canberra at the end of February.
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Upon selection in this particular squad, his first junior representative appearance in Australian colours, Ivan Vujica described it as a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’.
“It’ll be awesome and I’m glad to be a part of it,” he said.
“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."
The boys have two games with the national side under their belts at present – friendlies against a top-flight Malaysian club, Petaling Jaya City FC, and the Malaysia U/23s side.
Both Ivan and Joey have started in each of those fixtures, with the side going down 2-0 to Petaling Jaya City last Thursday night but bounced back to draw 1-1 with the young Malaysian side on Sunday. Johnny came off the bench in the loss to Petaling.
Australia U/23s coach, Graham Arnold, believes the 24-man squad is determined to give a good showing of themselves and grab the results to match.
“We are one of the unseeded teams for this phase of qualifying,” Arnold told socceroos.com.au.
“This group are desperate to reach the 2020 AFC U-23 Championship in Thailand and are determined to become the first men’s football team to qualify for the Olympic Games since 2008.
“I know our boys can achieve their goal, but they need time together to gel and learn about the demands of international football which is why this pre-camp leading up to Cambodia is so important.”
The first two games of the qualifying campaign are viewed as must-wins for the young Aussies, against Cambodia and Chinese Taipei but the third is regarded a slightly trickier task – Korea Republic.
After the final game of the campaign on Tuesday night, the boys picked in Ernie's squad to take on Wellington Phoenix in the Hyundai A-League will travel directly to New Zealand to link up with the group ahead of Saturday night.