Graham Arnold set to hit the phones to secure Olyroos Tokyo 2020 squad

Dual Socceroo and Olyroo boss Graham Arnold is set to hit the phones over the coming weeks in an attempt to convince clubs to release the players that he needs to fill his squad for Tokyo 2020.

Recently touching down in Dubai after guiding his Socceroos to eight wins from eight games in the second phase of Asian World Cup qualifying, Arnold will meet with Young Socceroos boss Gary van Egmond and National Technical Director Trevor Morgan in the coming days for a series of crucial, pre-Olympic meetings.

The trio — van Egmond and Morgan were in charge of a recent, three-game Olyroos camp in Marbella — are set to begin the process of hammering out the 18-player squad that will represent Australia in men’s football for the first time since Beijing to 2008 — with the plan to have the squad finalised by the end of next week.

However, the challenges of constructing the best roster possible for the Games don’t simply revolve around matters of composition and compatibility.

As an age-restricted tournament, the Olympic Games are not included in the men’s international match calendar during its current 2018-2014 cycle; clubs thusly not obligated by FIFA to release players for the tournament.

While this is unlikely to affect A-League players that would otherwise be in off-season mode during next month’s Olympiad, it creates a conundrum for overseas-based players and their clubs that would ostensibly have been ramping up for the 2021-22 campaign’s pre-season at the same time as Tokyo 2020.

Awer Mabil’s FC Midtjylland, for example, will be facing Ange Postecoglou’s Celtic in Champions League qualifiers on July 20 and 28, dates which encompass the same time period that the Olyroos will be facing Argentina, Spain and Egypt.

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Speaking to journalists on Friday evening, Arnold revealed that talks had already begun with the clubs of both overage and Olyroo-aged players ahead of the Games, which will ramp up in the coming days.

“We need the goodwill from clubs all around the world from clubs,” Arnold said. “They don’t have to release the overage players at all. So we need goodwill from clubs.

“The communication has been going on already for probably a good few weeks with a lot of the overage players with their clubs to see if they would release them.

“There’s a number of players that probably, I can say, have been ruled out already through their clubs. So, we’ve just got to get through that process first and see which clubs around the world will release those overage players if they do release them at all. That’s a FIFA rule.

“Also, a FIFA rule is that clubs don’t have to release U23s anymore. Overseas-based clubs, that rule changed in 2015, it wasn’t there in 2008 when I was last involved in the Olympic team.

“We’ve got to get goodwill from clubs, overseas-based clubs, to release the players for the Olympics.

“It’s a lot of communication, I’m spending a lot of time on the phone with sporting directors of clubs overseas and talking about the great opportunity it will give the kids at that age group for their careers ahead of them.

“[Converstations are] 50/50 at the moment, to be honest.

“But we’ve got a good pool of kids, great kids and I’m pretty sure that we’ll have our squad, the squad that we expect to have and require.”

While Arnold has now begun the process of sounding out overage players for the Olympics, he still remains insistent that he will be basing his push for a medal in Tokyo — an oft-repeated goal of the 57-year-old — on the young talent at his disposal.

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The 54-time Socceroo turned national teams boss has already declared that he won’t be bringing overage players in a position he feels is already adequately covered by an Olyroo-aged player, a pledge he repeated on Friday.

“There’s no way that I want to take an overage player if we’re strong in a position,” he said.

“I think I can say goalkeepers; Tom Glover and young Maynard-Belle from Charlton Athletic over in the UK. The reports back on [Maynard-Belle] for what he did in Marbella are fantastic.

“We’re not going to look at bringing in a Maty Ryan in a position where we’ve got some strength. It’s also about what’s next for the Socceroos and those kids are ready to step up.

“I have the greatest belief and confidence in those goalkeepers and I use that as an example, if I can, for other positions as well. If we’ve got some good young kids in a certain position, then we’re not going to bring an overage player for the sake of it.

“We’re not going to build the squad around the overage, it will be built around the young kids.

“I truly believe that the strength of the Socceroos is the Olyroos.

“By the age of 20, 21 they should already be knocking on the door and tapping the older players on the shoulder wanting their position. To add some pressure on those older players. I do believe we’re doing that.

“Look at Kuwait, the performances of Harry Souttar and Riley McGree and Denis Genreau and Connor Metcalfe; they’re going on leaps and bounds but the only way for them to get better and better in their careers is more exposure, and we will do that.”

With the dip in early season form of Dylan Wenzel-Halls — who as first reported first by the Sydney Morning Herald is set for a Western United move next season — and Nick D’Agostino, the striking position would ostensibly loom as the most likely position to be filled by an overage player.

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Header Image Credit: Football Australia/Socceroos

One thought on “Graham Arnold set to hit the phones to secure Olyroos Tokyo 2020 squad

  1. Pingback: City’s Nathaniel Atkinson chasing titles and Tasmanian Olympic history – JDL MEDIA

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