Graham Arnold felt 15 minutes of ‘sloppiness’ cost his Australian U-23 Men’s side against Sydney FC but was thrilled with the majority of Thursday night’s friendly loss.
In their first hit-out since their successful Olympic Games qualifying campaign in January, the Olyroos went down 3-0 in Kogarah.
All three of the Sky Blues goals came from defensive errors inside the first 18 minutes of the match.
But having had just a handful of training sessions together before the match, Arnold was impressed with the way his side recovered after the early onslaught.
“Conceding a sloppy goal in the first couple of minutes from a set piece probably knocked the stuffing out of us a little bit because the boys have only just come into camp on Sunday,” Arnold explained after the match.
“We’ve had three training sessions so when you get off to a good start it gives you belief and confidence.
“I only can look at what we’ve practised at training and what we’ve practised at training was excellent.
“Overall I couldn’t be happier than what I am for the 75 out of the 90 minutes and we’ll improve on all the one percenters.”
Having won the last two A-League titles and been together as a squad for the last few years it was probably no surprise the Sky Blues started the stronger.
Paulo Retre opened the scoring from a corner inside five minutes before Trent Buhagiar (15th) and Alexander Baumjohann (18th) added further goals in quick succession.
But from that moment the U-23’s found a foothold in the contest, enjoying large spells of possession after the break and creating a host of chances.
“One thing I believe in is mindset and at the end of the day it wasn’t through their (Sydney FC’s) brilliance that they scored it was through our sloppiness,” said Arnold.
“That can happen individually with the players coming in at different (stages of) pre-season at clubs and getting to know each other but I felt the second half we were excellent.
“For us we need to be more ruthless in front of goal and when we do get those chances put the ball in the back of the net.”
With next year’s Tokyo Olympics looming fast on the horizon, every match is vital for Arnold’s side to build cohesion for the tournament.
And Tuesday’s game against A-League newcomers Macarthur FC presents another opportunity for this group of players to put their hand up for a spot on the plane to Japan.
Asked the areas of improvement he was looking for against Macarthur, Arnold said: “Everywhere...especially in the final third.
“I thought we got down to the final third easily, we pressed them very well, we made them turn over possession well but when we got down to the final third our crossing let us down or our last pass let us down.
“At the end of the day from what we practised I was very happy but we didn’t get the time to practise the last passes or the delivery and we’ll do that over the next few days.
He added: "They’ve [Sydney FC] been together for the last few years, our boys have been together for the last few days. We haven’t seen each other since January, but that’s an excuse.
“What I expect when the boys come in is high standards and to perform to the best of our ability and I felt we did that for 75 minutes out of the 90.”
Australia U-23 Men’s National Football Team v Macarthur FC
Venue: Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, Kogarah, New South Wales
Date: Tuesday, 17 November 2020
Kick-off: 3:00pm AEDT
Broadcast: Live via Facebook (Socceroos, Macarthur FC, A-League), Kayo Sports, My Football Live App, My Football YouTube
*Please note this match will not be open to the public