Preparations for the Road to Rio are moving up a gear and on Friday evening Australia played the first of two games in Korea Republic, losing 2-0 to the hosts in Hwaseong, just to the south of Seoul.
While Korea has a healthy Olympic pedigree and won the 2012 bronze medal at the London games, Australia missed out on that tournament and is determined not to do so again in 2016.
This time, Jordan, Vietnam and United Arab Emirates are group rivals at the AFC Under-23 tournament that will take place in January. The winner of the 16-team competition as well the second and third placed teams will be heading to Brazil.
Korea was aggressive from the start, giving Aurelio Vidmar's charges no time to settle on the ball.
Both goals came within the first half hour. The first came after seven minutes and was easy on the eye. Hwang Hee-chan, the 19 year-old Austria based forward is one of the highest-rated players in South Korea and he broke free down the left flank, reached the touchline and pulled the ball back for Ji Yeon-hak to sidefoot home from close range.
Then Yeon Jae-min extended the lead after 27 minutes, scrambling the ball home from close range as a free-kick caused problems in the Australian area.
“We made too many mistakes early in the game,” said Olyroos coach Aurelio Vidmar after the game. “By the time we settled, we were two goals down but it was a good test for us and we are looking forward to the next game on Tuesday.”
Korea Republic boss Shin Tae-yong paid tribute to Hwang, the standout player. “He can cause problems against any team and has a bright future,” said the one-time Queensland Roar midfielder.
“This is a first game for us and so we are happy with the win against strong opposition but we know that we have to keep improving and that Tuesday's game will be another chance to do so.”
The bronze medal holders will take on Iraq, Uzbekistan and Yemen in January.
The two teams meet again on Tuesday evening in the port city of Incheon.
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