Reno Piscopo believes Australia U-23 are gelling more and more each game as Graham Arnold’s side chase an Olympic Games place.
The Green and Gold have an all-or-nothing AFC U-23 Championship Quarter Final against Syria in the in the early hours of Sunday morning (AEDT), with a win earning two chances to seal a spot at Tokyo 2020.
The best three teams from the Asian youth tournament in Thailand will book their place in the men’s football competition at the 2020 Olympics, so a semi-final or third-place playoff win will be enough for Australia U-23 to participate in their first Games since Beijing 2008.
Arnold’s side topped Group A in Bangkok with five points, with Wellington Phoenix flyer Piscopo scoring a stunning free-kick in the opener against Iraq and recording assists in the following two matches.
And while Piscopo is the first to admit his teammates are still getting used to each other’s habits on the pitch, the 21-year-old is confident they are growing as a collective every time they take to the field.
“I’m focusing on myself and our team,” Piscopo said.
”If we focus on ourselves and not the other team so much then I think we can do great things.
“We take one game at a time. It’s a new team. We don’t play with each other every week so it’s not easy at first.
“We’ve gelled a lot, we’re taking it step by step and that’s all we’ve got to do.”
Piscopo joined up with Australia U-23 off the back of an impressive run of form to start the Hyundai A-League season.
He has featured in nine matches for Ufuk Talay’s side, starting six times and scoring his first competition goal in the 2-2 Round 11 draw against Sydney FC in December.
“I’m loving my football at the moment. I’m really enjoying myself,” he added.
“I left Wellington in good form, great form, and I’m here helping the team as much as I can and bringing my form and ability to the team.”
Deep into the second week of camp in Thailand, Piscopo says he feels fully adjusted to his surroundings in Australia camp.
“At the start it was hard to focus with the heat and you sweat so much more,” Piscopo said.
“It was good to go to Malaysia for a couple of days and adjust to what it’s like in Bangkok.
He added: “Now I feel fresh because we’ve had two days off, which has been great. We’ve had time to relax and chill and do our own thing.”
A win on Saturday against Syria takes the Green and Gold one step away from qualifying for third first Olympic Games in 12 years.
Arnold said he believes five of his U-23 side can force themselves into seniors reckonings by the end of 2020, and Piscopo knows if he takes care of business in the short term, the rewards will follow.
“It’s still a goal to play for the Socceroos but I haven’t been thinking about that at the moment,” he added.
“My goal is to qualify for the Olympics and I’m going to do my best which I’m here and try my hardest to achieve this goal.
“We have belief, but we take it one game at a time because we can’t be too far ahead.”
Australia U-23 v Syria U-23
AFC U-23 Championship Thailand 2020 Quarter Final
Date: Saturday, 18 January 2020
Venue: Rajamangala Stadium, Bangkok, Thailand
Kick-off: 8.15pm (local); 12.15pm +1 (AEDT)
Stream/Broadcast (Australia Only): Fox Sports, Kayo Sports, My Football YouTube Channel