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No excuses for wannabe Olyroos - Graham Arnold

Graham Arnold
Graham Arnold is optimistic about the Olyroos' chances of qualifying for the next Games.

Graham Arnold's bid to return the Olyroos to the Olympic Games for the first time in 12 years begins on Friday night when the men's under-23 national side take on their Cambodian counterparts.

The Socceroos coach has taken on the Olyroos job to "help these kids achieve their lifelong dream of going to the Olympics," while at the same time boosting the national team's longer-term prospects.

Arnold has called up the best players available to him -- to the chagrin of some A-League coaches.

"One stat to show how important this level of preparation, this level of international football is ... when you become an Olympian you have an 87 percent chance to become a Socceroo," Arnold said.

"Some of these players, they need to come through and get into the Socceroos squad quickly. We've had retirements at Socceroos level. We've had injuries and we need more depth."

Qualifying will be tough. First, Australia face hosts Cambodia, with Arnold suggesting a capacity crowd of 45,000 in Phnom Penh. Then the Olyroos will face minnows Taiwan before a crunch meeting with powerhouse South Korea.

With no league season to interrupt, the Koreans have assembled the best of their locally-based talent, spending weeks together in camp to prepare.

Arnold has spent a week in Malaysia, playing two friendlies with underwhelming results.

Only the best-ranked of the four sides is assured of progression to a final 16-team qualifying tournament next January, hosted by Thailand, with just three teams to emerge from the Asian dogfight.

Still, Arnold is optimistic.

"Many times I've said to the boys, I wish I could coach them at clubland. There's a lot of energy and positiveness and there's a lot of will to win," he said. "These kids are in great shape and mentally I can see they're ready. There will be no excuses."

The Matildas, with no age restrictions on women's football at the Olympic Games, will also hope to qualify early next year.

They will fight a two-stage qualification battle between January and March next year for one of two Asian places to join Japan at the 2020 Games.

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