Hyundai A-League paving the way for Australia U-23 dreams

Melbourne City midfielder Riley McGree has declared he and his Australia U-23 teammates are ‘ready and acclimatised’ to the stifling conditions in Cambodia, as they embark on qualification for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics. 

Australia face hosts Cambodia on Saturday morning (AEDT) in conditions predicted to be 31°C at kick-off.

Two days later, Graham Arnold’s side face Chinese Taipei before rounding out their qualification group against Korea Republic on March 26.

READ: 23s show good signs against tough Tigers team
AUSSIES ABROAD: Ryan heroics send Brighton through to FA Cup semi-finals

McGree, who has played 21 times for City and scored three goals in the Hyundai A-League 2018/19 Season, dismissed suggestions the weather would affect Australia, noting the important time the team have spent together in the past week. 

“The coaches were saying it takes five to seven days to acclimatise fully and we’ve had that,” said McGree. 

“I think that was very important, we’ll be ready and acclimatised to the weather.” 

Riley McGree
McGree lining up against Malaysia U-23.

Conditions aside, the Australia U-23 National Team have spent the past week adapting to Arnold’s style of football too.

Like with the Caltex Socceroos, Australia’s crop of U-23s will look to play an attacking brand of football where they can create a number of goalscoring opportunities. 

McGree said the squad had learned a lot in the past week with Arnold and wanted to start games on the front foot. 

“(This past week was spent) implementing the style of how we’re going to play both in attack and defence, what we’re going to come up against with these Asian teams,” the Melbourne City playmaker said.

“We want to score as many goals as we can and concede as least as we can, and that’s just the main goal coming into this camp and converting that into the tournament. 

“What we’re going to have to do is try and create as many chances as we can and put (the opposition) away early and put as many goals past them in the match.”

Genreau relishing time spent with the team

Melbourne City loanee Denis Genreau has relished the time spent in camp with his Australia U-23 teammates. 

With Genreau currently in the Netherlands with PEC Zwolle, you could be forgiven for thinking he may have been overwhelmed by a number of unfamiliar faces. 

But it's no concern for Genreau, who insists he’s gotten to know the rest of the squad at just the right time.

“When I came into the camp, I knew probably half the boys and the other half just by name, I’d never played with them, never met them before,” said Genreau.

“It’s been really, really important to get to know the boys — mentally, to get that bond, it helps a lot in the game. 

“Also, playing-wise, in those two games you learn so much about the players — how they play, where they move — the two games were invaluable to get to know the other players.”

Genreau started the season in sensational form for Zwolle, stringing six consecutive appearances and bagging an assist against giants PSV Eindhoven.

Graham Arnold
Australia U-23s Head Coach, Graham Arnold.

However, having put in consistent performances for Zwolle’s first and reserves squads, Genreau insists he’ll be more than match-sharp for these upcoming qualifiers.

“At the start of the season I was playing a fair bit of regular football, but when I came back from the winter break it was a bit more difficult to break into the team,” said Genreau.

“But I’ve been playing regularly with the reserves which is still at a high level. 

“So in terms of my game fitness, it’s still high, but when you come here in the 40 degrees conditions from snowing Holland, it’s always difficult. 

“So I’m really glad we had that one week to get used to it and get fit. I’m still ticking over there in the reserves and I didn’t come over here with no fitness at all.”

Olyroos vs Malaysia U-23s
Australia U-23 lining up against Malaysia U-23.

Upcoming Matches | Australia U-23 National Team

Australia U-23 v Cambodia U-23 (2020 AFC U-23 Championship Qualification – Group H)
Date: Friday, 22 March 2019
Venue: Phnom Penh Olympic Stadium, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Kick-off: 8.00pm (local); 12.00am Saturday (AEDT)

Chinese Taipei U-23 v Australia U-23 (2020 AFC U-23 Championship Qualification – Group H)
Date: Sunday, 24 March 2019
Venue: Phnom Penh Olympic Stadium, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Kick-off: 5.00pm (local); 9.00pm (AEDT)

Korea Republic U-23 v Australia U-23 (2020 AFC U-23 Championship Qualification – Group H)
Date: Tuesday, 26 March 2019
Venue: Phnom Penh Olympic Stadium, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Kick-off: 5.00pm (local); 9.00pm (AEDT)