Arnold welcomes Olympic football age call

Graham Arnold says the Olyroos are well placed to medal at next year's Tokyo Olympics.
Graham Arnold says the Olyroos are well placed to medal at next year's Tokyo Olympics.

Graham Arnold has welcomed a recommendation to maintain the current age eligibility dates for Olympic men's football and believes his current Olyroos team can contend for a medal at Tokyo 2021.

The decision to postpone the Tokyo Games by 12 months left players born in 1997 sweating on their eligibility, with the men's tournament restricted to the under-23 age group plus three overage players per team.

Last week, a working group set up by FIFA recommended the competition remain open to players born on or after January 1, 1997, despite the postponement.

For Australia, that would mean the likes of skipper Thomas Deng, defender Alex Gersbach and goalkeeper Tom Glover - who turn 24 next year - will remain eligible.

"We're the only sport at Olympic level that has an age group added to it and the fact that it's an under-23 tournament for the boys, the boys worked so hard to get the qualification for the Olympics through," Arnold told the FFA podcast.

"And all those kids at that age group all around the world worked so hard to get their countries there - I think it's a very wise decision and one that's thoroughly deserved."

The Olyroos qualified for their first Olympics since 2008 by finishing third in this year's AFC U-23 Championship and Arnold backed his team to kick on from there.

"My belief is we'll go to the Tokyo Olympics and we will go there and we will win the medal, and be the first (Australian) football team to ever win a medal at the Olympics," he said.

"That's what my goals are and it's quite strange at the moment not coaching or being around football but we've got great times ahead of us."

Arnold emphasised the need for his players to start getting senior game time under their belts - when football resumes - to ensure their spot at Tokyo 2021.

"For me, from (under) 20s to 23 is so crucial for every player's career," Arnold said.

"Here in Australia in those age groups, the kids aren't playing.

"To achieve what they achieved in Thailand was fantastic but as I said to them after we qualified, 'well now the real stuff starts because now you need to get playing wherever you are and you need to perform to be selected in that Olympic squad.'"

Australian Associated Press