Arnold: Big name absences won't stop Olyroos from Olympic qualification

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Socceroos coach Graham Arnold is backing his Olyroos side to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics despite some notable absences.

He named a 23-man squad on Monday comprising 14 A-League players and nine based overseas for January's AFC U-23 Championship in Thailand.

The tournament serves as Olympic qualifying, with the top three teams joining hosts Japan as Asia's representatives.

While A-League clubs released their young players for international duty, Arnold's team had to negotiate with foreign clubs to secure the services of overseas-based talent.

Three training camps during FIFA windows were crucial to the squad's gelling and preparation given other teams were able to depart for Thailand earlier.

"That's why we fought so hard to get the boys out of overseas clubs and to get them here," Arnold said.

"That's why I fought so hard to have those three camps as preparation camps in the FIFA windows and we go in there expecting to qualify."

The Olyroos haven't featured at the Olympics since 2008 and Arnold will have to deal with a number of absences in January.

Harry Souttar, who could be recalled from Fleetwood Town for Stoke City's relegation battle, was not named, with Arnold conceding the defender's availability was "not looking great".

He said Daniel Arzani (Celtic, on loan from Manchester City), who has been on the comeback trail from a knee reconstruction, had felt "not ready".

Suspended quartet Riley McGree, Lachlan Wales, Nathaniel Atkinson and Brandon Wilson are unavailable but if the Olyroos secure qualification, McGree will be eligible for the Olympics.

Despite the absences, Arnold said he believed he had a very strong squad and qualifying would be a huge feat.

"Since 1992, when the Olympics became an under-23 competition, especially with the Socceroos, it's produced six or seven top Socceroos," he said.

"(Mark) Bresciano and (Vince) Grella for example, they didn't play for the Socceroos until after they were Olympians and the next phase in the journey for these kids to become Socceroos.

"And I truly believe that from what I've seen - and that's why I took the job, to be able to work and get to know them mentally - I truly believe by the end of 2020, there'll be five kids out of this group that will be part of the Socceroos squad, so it's very important."

The Olyroos head to Kuala Lumpur for a training camp and friendly against South Korea before travelling to Bangkok.

They will play Iraq, Thailand and Bahrain in Group A of the tournament on January 8, 11 and 14 respectively.

There are four groups, with the top two teams from each advancing to quarter-finals.

The two finalists and the winner of the third-place play-off all qualify for the Olympics. If Japan, as hosts, reach the semi-finals, the other three semi-finalists will all qualify.

OLYROOS SQUAD

Keanu Baccus, Daniel Bouman, Trent Buhagiar, Gabriel Cleur, Nicholas D'Agostino, Thomas Deng, Zach Duncan, Ben Folami, Denis Genreau, Alex Gersbach, Thomas Glover (GK), Thomas Heward-Belle (GK), Jordan Holmes (GK), Jacob Italiano, Joshua Laws, Connor Metcalfe, Tass Mouroukoutas, Ramy Najjarine, Aiden O'Neill, Connor O'Toole, Reno Piscopo, Dylan Ryan, Al Hassan Toure.

Source AAP