Former Olyroo Ruben Zadkovich marked both Messi and Aguero at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Adding to an unforgettable Games, the Aussie scored against Dusan Tadic’s Serbia.
That was an epic qualification campaign: like the Socceroos and the 2018 World Cup, the Olyroos racked up the air miles in order to qualify in 2008…
We were the first Olyroo team to qualify through Asia. It was a two-year-long campaign.
In the end, it was around 20 games home and away. It was an epic qualification campaign, all over Asia and in some pretty extreme places like North Korea.
In fact, North Korea away to qualify in late 2007 and we needed a draw and we scored off a header across goal that was like a handball at the back stick, a deflection that went in! And we hung on till the ref blew the whistle and celebrated.
The end of two years with an unbelievable group of players and playing for a super coach.
The importance of the Olyroos to the Australian football landscape: discuss
Everyone’s got their own opinion but for me it was massive.
It’s fundamental as a country that we need our younger national teams qualifying for these major tournaments if we’re to produce high-end fully fledged Socceroos who are going to be competitive at that next stage.
I admire and agree with Graham Arnold. From a coaching point of view, you want the best young players in Australia exposed to the best level of their age.
If we’re not making it into those tournaments, then there’s your underlying issue of why it isn’t as good as it could be at the top.
We need to put resources and focus into the development stages in this country. If we don’t I wouldn’t say fall behind but maybe not progress at the rate other nations are because of the resources other nations are putting into their younger national sides.
I feel we need to stay competitive in that department.
Taking players away from the A-League for underage national teams, where do you stand on that prickly issue?
It’s dependent on where you stand. Obviously, if I was an A-League coach losing my two best players who are young, mobile then of course if they’re missing in crucial games and my job’s on the line, then I’d not be that happy.
But I think there needs to be one eye on the bigger picture.
For example, if my two best players were pulled into an A-League squad and that hindered my season as a coach, as a club and a coach we’d be honoured that we could help develop them onto the next level. Even if it was detrimental to our season.
That attitude I believe has to be adopted by everyone in Australia. Then you’re promoting the development of players that is pivotal to the success of our national team in the long run.
That’s the bigger picture. Club football comes second to playing for your national team.
The A-League has been a great base for players to kick on. If there was no A-League, there’s no Mile Jedinak. Mile was my roommate in the Socceroos, and he’s one example. For most players, the A-League was a platform for their development.
So there has to be a balance but maybe with the number of games, the A-League plays are we better suited having breaks for international windows and extending the league into a longer season calendar.
Obviously, I’m not sure how the TV rights deal works and obviously overlapping with other codes, but, I feel like there has to be a balance.
We can’t have our best young Australian talents missing key tournaments because of A-League fixtures.