Disappointing tournament: Olyroos coach Aurelio Vidmar. Photo: Getty Images Australia’s Olympic soccer dreams are over following the Olyroos failure to break down a stubborn Jordan in the final pool game of their qualifying tournament in Doha, Qatar, overnight.
The Australians could only manage a scoreless draw when a victory was needed to progress to the knockout phase of the qualifying tournament. Jordan, at age group and senior level, are fast becoming a bogey side for Australia, and Ange Postecoglou’s Socceroos will have to be on their mettle when they meet the Jordanians in a final World Cup qualifying pool game in Sydney in March.
In the end the disappointment came down to an own goal five minutes from time in the opening 1-0 defeat against the UAE – and the fact that coach Aurelio Vidmar was missing more than half a team of players who would probably have been first choice selections in his starting XI.
A number of those – players like Lazio’s Chris Ikonomidis and Ross County’s Jackson Irvine – have already played for the senior national team, and their experience and talent would have been vital in such competitive circumstances.
Though the Olyroos had beaten Vietnam 2-0 in their second pool game, it was not enough: the failure to beat Jordan overnight meant that the Olyroos finished the group with four points – a decent return, but not enough to overhaul Jordan (five points) or the UAE (seven points), both of whom were unbeaten in the four-team pool.
The Australians might have controlled possession, but they could not break down a well-drilled Jordanian rearguard. The closest they came was in the dying moments, when Brisbane striker Jamie Maclaren’s lob came back off the crossbar.
It’s impossible not to speculate on how Vidmar’s side would have fared had he been able to pick the players he wanted.
Irvine, Brad Smith (Liverpool), Kenneth Dougall (Sparta Rotterdam), Ryan Williams (Barnsley), Milos Degenek (1860 Munich) and Awer Mabil (Midtjylland) were all candidates who were not released by their clubs.
Smith was, in fact, in action for Liverpool early on Thursday morning when the Reds beat Exeter in an FA Cup third round replay.
Ikonomidis, currently on loan to Salernitana from his parent club Lazio, was originally in the squad but was later withdrawn, as was Roda JC’s Danny De Silva.
For Australia, with so many young players at overseas clubs, these tournaments will always be a challenge as they are not on FIFA designated match days and clubs are under no obligation to release any players selected.
Melbourne Victory, who had five players in the Olyroos squad, will at least benefit, as they will get their players back earlier than might have been the case, perhaps in time to be considered for the Australia Day clash with Sydney FC.