The Olyroos have qualified for the Tokyo Olympics after a 1-0 win over 10-man Uzbekistan in the third-place playoff at the AFC Under-23 championships.
Nicholas D’Agostino skipped past two defenders before sliding the ball into the bottom corner in the 47th minute at Bangkok’s Rajamangala Stadium on Saturday night to secure Australia’s place at their first Olympic tournament in 12 years.
It was the Olyroos’ second chance to qualify after they missed their first opportunity with a 2-0 loss to South Korea in Thursday’s semi-final.
Uzbekistan were the dominant side for most the match, even after Oybek Bozorov was sent off for a dangerous tackle on Zach Duncan in the 59th minute.
Australia started well with D’Agostino rising to head the ball past goalkeeper Abduvohid Nematov in the fifth minute, but the goal was disallowed after Nematov was fouled in the lead-up.
The Uzbeks then started to turn the screws with winger Djasur Yakhshibaev menacing defenders Alex Gersbach and Dylan Ryan down the right flank.
The forward had a great chance in the tenth minute but headed straight into Olyroos goalkeeper Tom Glover’s hands.
Seven minutes later Yakhshibaev had an even better opportunity from the edge of the area but curled his shot just wide.
He later skipped through his markers in the 28th minute but the Olyroos defence shut down the attack.
Australia offered very little going forward in the first half but after the break took a surprise lead when D’Agostino skipped past two defenders and sent a neat finish into the bottom corner.
Just 14 minutes from the whistle, Australia had a chance to double their lead but midfielder Keanu Baccus’ effort was dealt with by Nematov.
The Central Asians refused to give up and continued to press for an equaliser in the final ten minutes as Australia seemed to be stuck in a holding pattern, despite their superior numbers.
Yakhshibaev had a chance to send the match into extra time in the 89th minute, but sent his free kick into the stands.
A total of six minutes of stoppage time was added but the Olyroos hung on to book their places in Tokyo.