Graham Arnold’s Olyroos were handed a stark reminder of how tough life is in south-east Asia when they were beaten 2-0 by lowly Malaysian Super League side PJ FC as part of their preparation for next week’s AFC Under-23 Championship qualifiers.
The clash in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday night was the first of two tune-up games in the Malaysian capital before they jet to Cambodia where Chinese Taipei, the host nation and Korea Republic await them on a heavily criticised synthetic surface in Phnom Penh.
An experimental Olyroos line-up didn’t quite gel against the locals, who are third bottom of the MSL six games into the season.
Arnold, who was without the likes of Thomas Deng and Alex Gersbach, declared himself satisfied with the exercise in the context of his preparation for what lies ahead.
Having made eight changes throughout the 90 minutes, he said: “It was more about looking at players who hadn’t played so much with us and some who needed the minutes.
“It was great ... the result was good from what we wanted and expected. It was their first game together as a group - and the two goals we conceded were about confusion.
“Every player lost four or five kilos (in the 30 degree heat). It was a learning process. We played well. We created a lot of chances and dominated the game.
“These types of games you lose and learn. But overall it was everything we wanted (heading into Cambodia).’
“The pitch wasn’t great, the conditions were hot and humid and the opposition had four good foreigners. We’re thankful they put their best team out. We had 78 percent possession and had 21 shots at goal to their three.”
Arnold reserved special praise for Italy-based winger Reno Piscopo, who made a big impression off the bench, saying he showed “Daniel Arzani-like” qualities.
“He did very well and is another Arzani,” he said. “He gets the ball and dribbles. He plays on the left and he did exceptionally well.
“I like the look of a lot of these boys but they need more game time with their clubs.”
He will be looking for more cohesion when his team face a far stiffer test against Malaysia’s Olympic team in their final hit out before the trail towards the 2020 Games in Tokyo begins in earnest next week.