Australia's Olyroos head coach Aurelio Vidmar has hit back at suggestions he has taken the A-League's best young players to an 'insignificant tournament'.
Vidmar has led his team to consecutive 1-0 wins over Kuwait and Iran at the Asian Football Confederation's (AFC) Under 22 Championship in Oman, ensuring the young Australians will play in the quarter-finals with a group game remaining.
But the youngsters' success has been overshadowed by complaints by Newcastle Jets head coach Gary van Egmond and Melbourne Victory boss Kevin Muscat, following a 1-1 draw between their respective sides in the A-League on Friday.
With this year's AFC U22 Championship not acting as qualification for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro - that will first happen at the 2015 edition - Van Egmond argued it would have been better for the youngsters to play in the A-League rather than an event that has 'no bearing'.
Both Newcastle and Victory have four players in Vidmar's squad and while the former Adelaide United head coach understands Van Egmond and Muscat's frustration, he bristled at suggestions the AFC U22 Championship is a 'nothing tournament'.
"I've been in that role as well, so I also understand that it's difficult when some of your players leave for international duty, and I'm very much for the integrity of the A-League, but let's wait a minute here and think about the integrity of the national teams as well," Vidmar said on Wednesday.
"There's got to be a bit of a balance. I went well out of my way, with this tournament, not to bring anyone into any camps prior to coming away here, so there was a little bit of concession there on my part.
"It's an important tournament, it's not a nothing tournament, as I've been hearing, it's an extremely important tournament because in a year's time, these boys have the opportunity to play in this tournament again to qualify for the Olympics."
With an eye on the future, Vidmar has taken a squad of players born in 1993, 1994 and 1995, meaning they will all be eligible again next year.
Kuwait and Iran's squads were packed with top-age players, those born in 1991 and 1992, and Vidmar believes that makes his team's achievements so far even more impressive.
The 46-year-old former Australia international has also warned A-League coaches that if he had his way, he would bring his squad together more often.
"We lack, in our country, tough international matches for our youth teams, our young national teams," Vidmar said.
"I spoke the Omani assistant coach and he told me that last year they played 20-25 international games."
But Vidmar is unsure how that can be done in Australia, while he remains pragmatic enough to understand all stakeholders involved - clubs, the FFA and players - must be kept onside.
"We need to sit down and, first of all, find out what can be done and what can't be done," he said.
"You know, the financial situation is always very difficult and the distance, for us, is always a problem.
"(Oman) can get on a plane and fly an hour and get an international against the UAE or Kuwait for example, so the distance for us is always a bit of an issue."
After two matches, Australia sit top of Group C with six points, four ahead of second-placed Japan, who have also taken a younger squad to Oman.
Australia will face Japan on Thursday at Royal Oman Police Stadium in the capital of Muscat before playing a quarter-final on Monday.