Graham Arnold says the lessons his Australia U-23 side learned from their hard-fought semi-final loss will fill them with confidence ahead of their AFC U-23 Championship third-place playoff against Uzbekistan.
The Green and Gold approach the contest at Rajamangala Stadium on Saturday evening (kick off 11.30pm AEDT) with their main goal for the tournament still within sight: booking a ticket to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Australia missed their first opportunity to qualify for the tournament after being beaten by Korea Republic, who progressed to the final of the tournament, but Arnold is confident his charges can bounce back in the third-place playoff.
“When you lose you learn,” Arnold told reporters on Friday afternoon.
“If you’re going to lose one game out of six, that was the game to lose because at the end of the day you’ve got a second bite of the cherry.
“The boys have recovered really well. Straight after the [Korea Republic] game I pulled the boys together and said ‘we can’t do anything about that game anymore, it’s over.’
“The boys did a great job; they made Australia proud and got beaten that night by a better team on that night.
“You get over it, you get on with it, you can’t affect that game any more and full focus right from that final whistle to now has been on that game [on Saturday].”
Ahead of the clash against Uzbekistan – reigning AFC U-23 Championship winners – Arnold says there will be no fearing their opponents when the game gets underway on Saturday night.
“They’ve got a two-day turnaround, we’ve got a two-day turnaround,” Arnold said.
“We’re just focusing on our own performance and ourselves, and getting that right.
“We came into this tournament ranked 11, Uzbekistan are ranked one.
“We came into this tournament and have done a great job so far but still we haven’t achieved anything.
“It’s all about achieving what our goal was to come here.”
The winners of the do-or-die contest will finish the tournament as the third-best team and ultimately book their spot at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, alongside hosts Japan and U-23 Championship finalists Korea Republic and Saudi Arabia.
It is a high-stakes contest which Arnold believes will be of a huge benefit to his young players.
“The reason we needed to tick the box to get to the last four was to have two bites of the cherry,” Arnold said.
“Before the tournament everyone in Australia would have signed off for that.
“We’ve got the second chance, and I expect an improved performance from us.
“It’s a great learning experience for these kids, they’re getting the experience of playing games that mean something in a meaningful tournament.
“Every game so far has meant a lot to the kids and giving them those type of experiences is crucial to their careers.”
Australia U-23 Men’s National Team – Upcoming Fixture
Australia U-23 v Uzbekistan U-23 – AFC U-23 Championship Thailand 2020 Third-Place Playoff
Match Date: Saturday, 25 January 2020
Venue: Rajamangala Stadium, Bangkok, Thailand
Kick-off: 7.30pm (local); 11.30pm (AEDT)
Stream/Broadcast (Australia Only): Fox Sports, Kayo Sports, My Football YouTube Channel