The dust hadn’t even settled on the Olyroos progression to Tokyo 2020 before the speculating began: just who would earn the right to call themselves Olympian come July.
Shrugging off the disappointment of their poor 2-0 loss to South Korea in the semifinals, the Olyroos secured their progression to the Games of the XXXII Olympiad overnight after downing Uzbekistan 1-0 in the AFC U23 Championships third-place playoff.
But, while Head Coach Graham Arnold had a 23-player squad at his disposal during the championships – depth he was frequently forced to call upon in the hot and humid conditions – that number will be reduced by five come the Olympics proper.
Three of those 18 places able to be filled by players aged over 23, leaving potentially only 15 spaces available for players born on or after January 1, 1997.
And with U23 talents such as Daniel Arzani, Harry Souttar, Riley McGree, Daniel De Silva, Samuel Silvera, Louis D'Arrigo, Anthony Kalik and Cameron Devlin all likely to push for inclusion in that squad in the coming months, some agonising decisions will be faced by Arnold in the months ahead.
“It’s something that everyone knows, you can have three overage players,” Arnold – his voice hoarse after the Uzbekistan game – told a phone hook-up of journalists on Sunday.
“But we’re only 15 hours after the game and I haven’t even thought about that.
“I will say that I’ve had about 20 Socceroos boys congratulating me on qualifying for the Olympics. I’d say that, because all the Socceroos boys haven’t been to the Olympics before, they should put their hands up.
“It’s something that I’ll think about over time.”
Adding yet more food for thought will be his need to juggle World Cup qualifiers against Chinese Taipei on June 4 and Jordan on June 9 and the Copa Americas, which starts on June 12.
Arnold has previously floated the prospect of rewarding standout Olyroos with selection as part of his squad for the Copa America’s, with the likes of Reno Piscopo, Denis Genreau, Dylan Ryan, and Nicholas D’Agostino all showing flashes at the AFC U23 Champions that should put them in line for a call-up.
“Look, it’s something that I obviously need to think about over the next couple of months,” the Olyroos/Socceroos boss said.
“This is all still fresh and emotional, it was such a wonderful night for those boys last night.
“To see kids’ interviews after the game and to see the kids reflecting on their past six months, twelve months where they haven’t been playing and to achieve what they did…
“I need to get home, get rid of the emotion and then make those decisions when the time comes.”