Olyroos midfielder Denis Genreau says Australia’s U23 side is looking to continue the momentum gathered from their second-half performance against Thailand in their final AFC U23 Championship group fixture against Bahrain.
Following on from a 1-1 draw with Iraq in their opening-fixture, the Olyroos were forced to dig in and hold on for dear life in the first half of their clash with host-nation Thailand – and were very lucky to head into the dressing room at halftime not down a goal or two.
Nonetheless, the introduction of Genreau after the break – his first action at the Championships since arriving at the tournament with an injured shoulder – combined with a lessening of intensity from the junior War Elephants, allowed the Australians to finish over the top and record a 2-1 win.
The three points puts coach Graham Arnold’s side in the box seat to advance out of Group A, needing only a single point tonight against bottom of the group Bahrain to mathematically guarantee progression.
That fixture, the last of the group stage, is set to kick off overnight at 12:15 am AEDT on Wednesday.
“Everyone here is really focused for this last game,” Genreau said. “Everyone is really happy at the moment, there is confidence after that second-half performance and the game in general against Thailand.
“I think [the belief within the squad] is growing every day.
“The more time that we spend together, the better we get along and the more we gel. Arnie said this from the start – we are going to get better as the tournament progresses because the more games that we play together the better we are going to be.”
With Japan already confirmed to be going home – bottom of Group B with no points after two matches – the road ahead of the Olyroos to secure a place at Tokyo 2020 has become clear.
With only three slots at the Games of the XXXII Olympiad available in Thailand – Japan already guaranteed one of Asia’s four slots by virtue of their hosting – Australia will need to either advance to the semi-finals and either progress to the final or, should they go down, win the third-place playoff to qualify.
In doing so, Arnold’s side would end Australia’s 12-year drought at the Games.
Though the Olympics aren't normally on the list of events that young footballers dream of competing in, Genreau, who returned to City for the 2019/20 season after spending a year on loan with Dutch Eredivisie side PEC Zwolle, told FTBL in October just what becoming an Olympian would mean to him.
With his parents watching on from the stands, the 20-year-old says that both he and the side are taking heart from the support they have received from back home as they look to secure qualification.
“To have Mum and Dad in the stands for me means a lot,” he said. “To see them up there makes me really happy.
“The support from all the Australians that are here makes a big difference, especially when you go up to them after the game and you see how happy they are – you know that you are playing for something greater than yourself, you are playing for the nation.
“We need the people back home to support us – it means everything.”