Arnold expects a stronger Australia in quarter-finals
Bangkok: A relieved Graham Arnold stressed his players needed to make significant improvements after Australia’s 1-1 draw with Bahrain on Tuesday evening earned the Olyroos top spot in Group A and a place in the quarter-finals of the AFC U23 Championship Thailand 2020.
The Australians will meet the runners-up from Group B in the last eight on Saturday after sharing the points with Bahrain, who exited the competition with two points from their three group matches.
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“The most important thing is we got through to the next phase, it’s the first time since 2013 that the Olympic team has got through this first phase,” said Arnold. “That was our first goal and now we really have to step up with our improvement in our performance.
“For the first half, the first 44 minutes we were very good. It’s a learning experience for these young kids to play in these tournaments in a meaningful competition, so it’s great experience for the kids.”
Remy Najjarine gave the Australians the lead in the 34th minute when he latched on to Reno Piscopo’s perfectly weighted pass before sliding the ball home, only for Mohamed Marhoon to level the scores with a free-kick in first half injury time.
Bahrain then pushed for the winner they needed to progress to the quarter-finals, but Australia’s defence held on to keep alive the nation’s title hopes and their chances of securing a place at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
“For us to qualify for the Olympics we need to cut out the individual mistakes,” said Arnold. “Bahrain didn’t create a chance themselves, we created their chances for them with mistakes.
“But they’re kids and as long as they learn from it - and they will - and I expect that it won’t happen again.”
Bahrain coach Samir Chammam stressed his players’ involvement in the tournament had been positive, even though their hopes of advancing to the knockout rounds suffered a huge blow in their heavy opening day loss at the hands of hosts Thailand.
“Our journey is over in this tournament,” he said. “We played three matches, drew in two and lost one. Our performance was good in the last two matches, especially if we take into consideration all of the circumstances, such as we were missing players and we had limited preparation."
“The players learnt a lot at this tournament, especially about the differences in fitness levels.
"Before we participated in friendly international tournaments like in Toulon, and we faced different styles of play and that increased the experience of the players, so they learned a lot on the tactical side.”
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