The best of the rest is a squad comprising 18 Australian A-League players that played in the A-League in season 2020/21.
Channel Ten has done an admirable job in advertising and telecasting the recent Socceroos and Matildas matches, but they made their first error by not telecasting the Olyroos AFC under-23 Asian Cup qualifier against Indonesia on Tuesday night.
Anyone who knew the match was on would have been left to their own devices to try to figure out how to watch it. I was able to find a decent stream of the match on YouTube, while others undoubtedly went down the illegal stream route.
Australia had been scheduled to play Indonesia as well as China PR and Brunei Darussalam in Group G, but after the latter two nations withdrew from qualifying, the AFC reconfigured all the groups and Australia was left in a favourable two-match series against Indonesia.
The Olyroos are trying to rebuild a style of football after fans and media savagely slammed their playing style at the Tokyo Olympic Games.
Graham Arnold stepped away from his dual duties with the national team after that debacle, and in his place as interim manager is Trevor Morgan, who coincidentally manages the Joeys, Australia’s under-17s side.
Morgan sprung a surprise straightaway by selecting 17 Australia-based players in his squad of 23 partly due to the refusal of some European clubs to release players.
The two qualifying matches were unable to be held on Australian or Indonesian soil and were agreed to be played within three days of each other in Tajikistan.
Trevor Morgan’s plans were thrown into disarray in camp when Western United’s Noah Botic, who is expected to have a big A-League campaign this season, broke down in training.
On paper this looked like a mismatch, but anyone remotely familiar with the Asian sides will be well aware of players’ technical skills and abilities with the ball.
Australia broke out the gates like a racehorse and had a great chance to open the scoring early on when Central Coast’s Lewis Miller was brought down for a penalty, but Sydney FC’s Patrick Wood saw his tame effort saved.
Indonesia’s goalkeeper was already looking like man of the match, beating away several shots to keep the game on a scoreless knife edge at halftime.
The Olyroos’ ascendency paid off in a six-minute burst, with two quickfire goals. Brentford FC’s Lachlan Brook opened, whipping in a cross that Mjallby’s Marc Tokich got on the end of.
Brook was then involved minutes later when his through ball found Western Sydney’s Alessandro Lopane, who squared his pass for Patrick Wood to make it 2-0. Brook was a standout, and the 20-year-old has been a mainstay in Brentford’s reserves side, scoring two goals this season. Adelaide United cheekily had a bid to take their former prodigy back home on loan rejected a few weeks ago.
The plucky Indonesians didn’t give up and got a deserved goal – it was an absolute worldie from 20 yards and looked to be goal of the match.
Until Jacob Italiano stepped up.
Italiano has now been in Germany for a few years playing for Borussia Monchengladbach II. He is a supremely talented footballer and has all the skills to play at a higher level rather than toiling away for a reserves team.
He was a menace all night, and with Indonesia threatening to equalise, he went on a jinking run through the heart of the defence and unleashed a thunderbolt to put Australia up 3-1.
Indonesia were still pressing against a tiring Australian team and scored again with five minutes to go to make it 3-2, but Australia held out the last few minutes for a deserved win.
All the Olyroos have to do is avoid defeat on Friday to qualify for the AFC under-23s Asian Cup. Whatever perceived arrogance they may have had is now gone after another Asian minnow gave an Australian national team an almighty scare.