Olyroos set to kick off two-game New Zealand series on Friday night

Olyroos set to kick off two-game New Zealand series on Friday night

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Though much of the attention is quite rightly being monopolised by the Socceroos as they prepare to commence their road to Qatar 2022 against Kuwait, another leg on the Olyroos path to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics is set to be marked on Friday night.

Led by Young Socceroos boss Gary van Egmond, who has been drafted into Head Coaching duties with Graham Arnold away with the Socceroos, Australia’s best U23 talent is set to commence a two give series with New Zealand’s U23s – the ‘Oly Whites’ – at Wollongong’s WIN Stadium on Friday night.

There will then be a second meeting between the trans-Tasman rivals in Campbelltown on Monday evening.

The two friendlies against the Kiwis serve as the first competitive hit-outs for the Olyroos since they advanced to the AC U23 Championships – which will serve as qualification for the Tokyo Olympics – back in March.

In the immediate aftermath of that qualification, Arnold and key squad members such as Thomas Deng and Riley McGree all called for the Olyroos to be afforded more time together ahead of next January’s AFC Championships.  

“You can’t expect a team to just, in January, come together one week before a tournament and expect to know how each other plays,” McGree told dailyfootballshow.com back in March.

“I think every international break getting the team in and getting stronger relationships in the squad on and off the field will definitely help with qualification.”

In an effort to avoid disruption to players fighting for their place at the beginning of European seasons, Australia has named an almost entirely A-League based squad for the coming games against New Zealand; only Alex Gersbach of AGF Arhus in Denmark playing his club football outside of Australia.

With five representatives – Connor Metcalfe, Denis Genreau, Tom Glover, Nathaniel Atkinson and Lachlan Wales – Melbourne City has the largest contingent in the Olyroos squad, followed by Adelaide United (four), Western United (three) and Western Sydney Wanderers (three).

Metcalfe, alongside Western Sydney’s Tate Russell, would make his international U23 debut should he see the field in the upcoming fixtures.

With more friendlies – in which van Egmond will remain as acting Head Coach – on the cards for the Olyroos in October and November it has been reported that more international representatives will receive a call-up for an overseas October game before a combined squad will then contest the November fixture.

With the A-League not pausing for international breaks in the 2019/20 season, the use of A-League based players in the Olyroos squads for the coming friendlies – as well as the AFC U23 Championships – will require significant cooperation from the A-League clubs.

After striking an agreement with Wellington Phoenix Head Coach Ufuk Talay, New Zealand will be without the services of Wellington Phoenix players Liberato Cacace, Callum McCowatt, Ben Waine, and Callan Elliot for the games against Australia; the quartet remaining with the Phoenix for A-League preseason with the understanding that they will be available for the OFC Men’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Fiji from 21 September to 5 October.

Former senior New Zealand representatives Michael Woud (Willem II), Clayton Lewis (Scunthorpe United), Logan Rogerson (Free Agent), Myer Bevan (Western Springs) and Noah Billingsley (UC Santa Barbara) will instead highlight the Kiwi squad for the two friendlies against Australia.

That side of largely New Zealand based players will be looking to emulate the Oly Whites side from 1996 that defeated Australia 1-0 in Adelaide to register their nations only U23 win in the rivalries history.

A 1-1 draw in Auckland back in 2004 is the only other time the New Zealanders avoided defeat across the 10 matches played between the two.

International Friendlies – Australia U-23 v New Zealand U-23

Date: Friday, 6 September 2019
Venue: WIN Stadium, Wollongong
Kick-off: 7.30pm AEST
Tickets: Available at www.socceroos.com.au

Date: Monday, 9 September 2019
Venue: Campbelltown Stadium, Campbelltown
Kick-off: 7.30pm AEST
Tickets: Available at www.socceroos.com.au

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