Graham Arnold says knowing the full-time whistle will come on Australia Day back home will further inspire his side in Saturday night’s AFC U-23 Championship third-place playoff against Uzbekistan.
A win against the White Wolves at Rajamangala Stadium will seal Australia’s place as one of Asia’s representatives in the men’s football competition at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games – a stage the Olyroos haven’t graced since Beijing 2008.
And, while Australia’s fixture against Uzbekistan will kick-off on January 25 (11.30pm AEDT), supporters on the east coast of Australia will watch the bulk of the contest on Australia Day – January 26.
At his pre-match press conference, Arnold said his squad would use the fact that the game will finish on Australia Day in parts of the nation as motivation to succeed, and to provide joy to fans back home.
“Half an hour (after kick-off) at midnight is Australia Day, so the motivation is there to give back to Australia on that day,” Arnold said.
Australia missed their first opportunity to qualify for the tournament after being beaten by Korea Republic, who progressed to the final of the tournament.
While acknowledging there are no easy games at this level, Arnold feels his the team is in the right space to bounce back in the third-place playoff.
“They (Uzbekistan) are a strong side, but we have to focus on ourselves with another energetic performance tomorrow night, but also a performance that is going to give us that extra spot at the Olympics.”
“The boys are in great shape mentally, physically, and we will go out in the game expecting to put in a great performance.”
“It is a life experience for them to play in this type of game. It is something that these kids haven’t done before, so it is a wonderful opportunity for them in their life.”
“We will have a game plan with and without the ball, and we will nullify their strengths and prepare to expose their weaknesses.”
Arnold is also passing on his long list of personal experiences in the green and gold at the Olympic Games to further inspire the side.
“I have been fortunate to go to three Olympics – one as a player, assistant coach, and as a coach – and it is up there with the World Cup," he said.
"We have been able to share those stories with the players and the players are obviously focused on the game tomorrow and they know what is at stake."
Australia U-23 Men’s National Team – Upcoming Fixture
Australia U-23 v Uzbekistan U-23 – AFC U-23 Championship Thailand 2020 Third-Place Playoff
Match Date: Saturday, 25 January 2020
Venue: Rajamangala Stadium, Bangkok, Thailand
Kick-off: 7.30pm (local); 11.30pm (AEDT)
Stream/Broadcast (Australia Only): Fox Sports, Kayo Sports, My Football YouTube Channel