Graham Arnold has lauded the Australia U-23's qualification for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games as a "huge" achievement for football in Australia.
Arnold's side needed to finish third or higher at the AFC U-23 Championship to book a spot at the Summer Games later this year.
Having gone down in the Semi-Finals to Korea Republic, the U-23's had to beat Uzbekistan on Saturday to qualify for Tokyo 2020.
And they achieved just that, with Nicholas D'Agostino's 47th minute strike proving to be the difference in a 1-0 win at the Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand.
The win sealed the U-23's first Olympic Games appearance since 2008, and the best ever finish for the side at the AFC U-23 Championships.
Arnold – who played for Australia at Seoul 1988, was an Assistant Coach with team in Athens 2004 and Head Coach of Australia in Beijing 2008 – hailed his side’s effort and attitude.
“I am really proud of the way they worked this whole tournament,” Arnold said. “Their attitude has been fantastic, we probably came in and we weren’t the strongest team in Asia, or close to being the strongest team, we were ranked number 11 in Asia when we came in.”
“To create what we have just achieved is so huge for Australian football because it is the first time that we have qualified for the Olympics for 12 years and I do know that when you have a great pathway, a great preparation for the Olympics, then it creates six or seven top Socceroo players and for the senior national team and that is very important.”
“That (game against Uzbekistan) would 100 per cent be the biggest game of their careers and their lives. They have not experienced anything like that at club land as well as obviously with the national teams, so it has been a wonderful learning process for the players and I felt that we dealt with it very well.”
MATCH HIGHLIGHTS: Watch the highlights from the U-23's win over Uzbekistan