Australia’s tough qualifying schedule in Asia will give them an edge in this year’s Beijing Olympic under-23 football competition, coach Graham Arnold said Monday.
The Australians were Sunday drawn with defending champions Argentina, Olympic newcomers Ivory Coast and European qualifiers Serbia in Group A.
It is similar to the draw at the 2004 Athens Games, when they were grouped with Argentina, Serbia and another African nation, Tunisia.
Arnold, an assistant to head coach Frank Farina four years ago, said he is hopeful of emulating the Athens performance, when the team made it past the group stage.
Australia lost to Argentina 1-0, downed Serbia 5-1 and drew 1-1 with Tunisia, before bowing out 1-0 to Iraq in the quarter-finals.
“Last time we had a similar group and we did very well to make the quarter-finals,” Arnold told reporters Monday.
“We know we can get through this group, we have history and also we have had such a tough schedule just to make it this far, which will hold us in good stead.
“Playing in Asia has taught us a lot about the conditions we will face in China and that could also give us an advantage.”
Arnold said he expects Australia will play at least 12-13 games up to the opening Olympic match against Serbia in Shanghai on August 7.
“We have a tournament in Malaysia coming up and it’s been a bonus to have so many of the players involved with the (senior) Socceroos,” he said.
“The preparations will be better than I had hoped for and we will go there to be successful.”
Australia’s opponents have been impressive in their Olympic eliminators. Argentina qualified as runners-up to Brazil in the 2007 South American Youth Championships.
Serbia qualified by reaching the final of the 2007 UEFA European Under-21 Championship and Ivory Coast topped their final qualifying group in Africa with five wins from six matches.
Australia are yet to win a football medal at the Olympics, having had their best finish of fourth in Barcelona in 1992.
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