Qantas Australian U23s head coach Aurelio Vidmar has denied the final 2012 Olympic Qualifier against Iraq is a dead rubber, despite Australia already being knocked out of the competition, saying his young players still have a lot to prove.
Qantas Australian U23s head coach Aurelio Vidmar has denied the final 2012 Olympic Qualifier against Iraq is a dead rubber, despite Australia already being knocked out of the competition, saying his young players still have plenty to prove.
The U23s are set to play their final qualifier at Gosford-s Bluetongue Stadium on March 14, with both sides already out of contention for the London Games.
But after announcing a squad of inexperienced youngsters for the game, many of whom will make their U23s debut, Vidmar said the players would go into the game knowing this was a one-off chance to show they have what it takes to represent Australia.
“We understand it-s an Olympic qualifier so it-s not just about throwing these guys in there and saying, ‘Go and win the game for us-, because it-s not that simple. We-re still serious about trying to win the game,” Vidmar said.
“There-s a new AFC U22 competition that starts in June, they-re not going to have any games before then so it-s an opportunity to give them a taste of international level. They-ve all got a lot to play for if they want to show something of an international future. It-s always an important game when you-re representing your country.
“It-s certainly not a dead rubber in my mind, it-s a game we want to win, although only working with these guys for one session will make it a bit harder, but we did that to allow the a-league clubs to have all their players for this weekend-s games so we had to compromise.”
The difficulties Vidmar has had selecting his strongest squad have been well documented, with Olympic qualifiers falling outside FIFA dates making it hard to take players away from clubs, on top of the cap on selecting a certain number of players from each club. But the coach says such obstacles are just part and parcel of international football.
“If we had the strongest team it would probably would have liked to have through we had some decent options upfront - like Leckie, Oar, McGrath, Holland - those guys who-ve been overseas for 12-24 months, but they-ve got a bit more senior football under their belt. But saying that, from the start we knew we had to rely on the A-League boys.
“I-ll be very honest - they-ve gave every ounce of blood sweat and tears they had. We all did everything we could to get the results. They were a joy to coach and we did enough to win several games but it-s the old story, if you don-t put the ball in back of the net... we created chances to win games but it-s those small margins.”
The squad to face Iraq features a number of new faces and Vidmar said this was an opportunity for those who had so far been in the background to show they-re ready to step up.
“There are a number of players who are performing quite well. Tommy Rogic is flavour of the month, someone who hasn-t been discovered until very late and started slowly at Central Coast but has been performing extremely well.
Then you-ve got a seasoned campaigner in Ben Kantarovski who-s been around for a few years through the whole national set-up. Jacob Pepper another one who-s been performing well; Craig Goodwin at Melbourne Heart, Rhyan Grant at Sydney.
“Mark Birighitti has been waiting in the wings at Adelaide for a long time and in the national team so he-s got a good opportunity to show what a very good keeper he is.
“It-s a good group but it-s going to be a real test because of the lack of preparation and getting the boys together for a short space of time, and they-re going to face a very good side in Iraq. It will be a good test of character and it-ll be good to see how flexible they are with a short turnaround to prepare for a big game - it-s all part of being a professional footballer.”