X-factor Arzani can punch Olyroos tickets to Tokyo, claims van Egmond


He’s yet to kick a ball for his club this season but Daniel Arzani has been earmarked as the secret weapon to spearhead the Olyroos’ bid to reach the 2020 Olympic Games.

Edging closer to his Celtic return 10 months out from the ACL injury suffered on his Hoops debut, the 20-year-old attacker’s comeback can’t come quickly enough for both the Socceroos and Olyroos.

The latter journey to Thailand in January to compete at the AFC U-23 Championship chasing a top-four finish to clinch a spot in Tokyo, with the draw in Bangkok on September 26.

Having showed glimpses of his beguiling gifts at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Arzani could hold the key for the U-23’s according to caretaker coach Gary van Egmond, who is standing in for Graham Arnold whilst he’s otherwise engaged with the Socceroos in Kuwait.

Speaking after a home-based Olyroos selection were held to successive 1-1 draws by New Zealand, van Egmond underlined how crucial Arzani might be in the coming months.

“It depends where he’s at in terms of his fitness but if he’s good to go then in this age group he’s very important in terms of where he’s playing and the level he’s at,” said van Egmond, who doubles up as the Young Socceroos coach.

“He could have a big bearing on the team and how it progresses from here.

“We’ll obviously he guided by the medicos in terms of where he’s up to to ensure the best outcome for him.

“All the overseas boys have expressed just how much they want to be involved in the Olympics.”

That aforementioned group includes Socceroo Alex Gerbsbach (AGF), his 19-year-old teammate Zach Duncan and Fleetwood Town loanee Harry Souttar.

Depending on how he is tracking at Celtic, the international demands are likely to be back on the agenda for Arzani next month with the Socceroos facing Nepal in a World Cup qualifier in Canberra before traveling to Chinese Taipei five days later.

The Olyroos, meanwhile, head to Qatar for a friendly in early October and follow that up with three games in China in November.

Arnold and his Socceroos assistant Rene Meulensteen will retake the Olyroos reins in January with van Egmond stating that by then nearly 50 players will have been assessed.

“It’s been very thorough and it’s great we have these camps to give us the preparation we need,” added van Egmond.

Van Egmond has been on a charm offensive with A-League bosses to ensure the hassle-free release of players to give Australia the best chance of making it to Tokyo.

“We’re very respectful of the clubs and we’re trying to work in with them to utilize the FIFA windows,” he added.

“They all know what’s occurring - Graham has spoken with them and I’ve been talking to them too to keep them up to date.

“It’s very recognisable how important the Olympics are and how invaluable it is for players to have the chance to go there.

“We want to have as many teams as possible qualify for future World Cups and the Olympics is a huge marker in terms of their development.

“We had good opposition in New Zealand over the two games and you find out more about the players along the way.

“The upcoming camps are an opportunity to look at some of the overseas players, as well as having a good knowledge of what’s happening domestically.”

Van Egmond particularly liked the look of Perth Glory striker Nick D’Agostino, Western Sydney Wanderers defender Tass Mourdoukoutas and Melbourne City livewire Lachlan Wales against the Kiwis.