The stats don’t lie. Australia’s U-23 Olyroos go into next week’s crucial AFC Tokyo 2020 Olympics qualifiers as an unseeded nation. Why?
It’s because Australia has only qualified for five out of the last 14 junior AFC tournaments.
And for the Olympics, Australia has failed to qualify for the two most recent games in Brazil and London.
In fact, the last time the Olyroos qualified was in 2008 at the Beijing Olympics. This all serves as a worrying backdrop to the latest Australian U-23 campaign, which kicks off next week in Cambodia.
The seeding means Australia has regional heavyweight Korea Republic in their group (along with the hosts and Chinese Taipei).
It’s not the luck of the draw, it’s the seeding based on green and gold performances in Asia.
If Australia does not top the group, it could spell the end of the road to Tokyo.
The Olyroos will need to be one of the top four second-placed nations in order to progress to the final AFC qualifiers in Thailand next January.
The four best second-placed nations across all 11 groups played in the region over the coming fortnight mean the heat will be on those who don't top their groups.
All in all, not an easy task. And hence why coach Graham Arnold is taking it very seriously.
With this in mind, this week, the Aussie U-23s have been in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur where the conditions will mirror those in Phnom Penh.
It's expected to be around 38 degrees and 80% humidity for Australia's 5 pm and 8 pm kick offs at the National Olympic Stadium.
On the eve of these crucial Olympics 2022 qualifiers, Olyroos head coach Graham Arnold warns the reality for Australian football is becoming very clear.
Arnold took the dual Socceroos and Olyroos’ role because he cares deeply about the future of the game and the quicker development of Olyroos into Socceroos.
With only around 25 Aussie players eligible for the national team playing in the A-League, Arnold can see the urgency around player development.
“Obviously there are people who aren’t happy with us coming to Asia early [to prepare] but you can’t turn up to these tournaments with no games and no proper preparation and acclimatization," he said.
And he can see how nations in South-East Asia are improving at a rapid pace and worries that Australia could simply be left behind over the next decade.
“Since I left the national team in 2010 to now, the improvement in these nations in South-East Asia is ridiculous.
“A decade ago you’d beat Vietnam 8-0 in junior national teams. Three years ago they beat us 5-0 in the U-20s. It’s come so far.
“We’ve got to wake up!”