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A must win game for footballers

8 May 2007

The Australian under 23 Men’s Football Team must beat Iran on 16 May in Adelaide to keep their Beijing Olympic dream on track.

Following a 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia on 19 April Australia now sit third in Group D on goal difference behind the Saudi’s and the Iranians after four of the six rounds.

Only the top two teams advance to the final Asian qualifying stage. A squad of 20 players attended a three-day training camp in Canberra last week with a number of players yet to appear in the Olympic qualifiers given the chance to impress coaching staff.

Key players Mark Milligan and Nikolai Topor-Stanley of Sydney FC plus Adelaide United duo Nathan Burns and Bruce Djite were not required at the camp because of Asian Champions League commitments.

“The camp was useful for those players that are not currently playing regularly and gave me an opportunity to look at players I haven't seen before," Head Coach Robert Baan said.

At the AOC Team Processing session in March Baan was confident that Australia could beat any team in this stage of the draw and the next phase with Japan and Korea the biggest threats in the final stage but Australia has work to do to get there first.

Ben Griffin and Ruben ZaDKovich will join Adrian Leijer on the sidelines for the crucial fixture against Iran after each received a second caution of the campaign against Saudi Arabia.

The final game of this qualifying stage against last placed Jordan takes place in Amman on June 7. The top two teams will progress to the third and final stage of qualifying, where the remaining 12 nations will be split into three groups.

The third stage will be held from August 22 to November 21, with only the three group winners representing Asia at the Beijing Olympic Games.

Meanwhile, the Australian women’s football team who recently defeated Chinese Taipei 10-0 and Hong Kong 15-0 in Olympic qualifying matches will play North Korea on June 3 in a top of the table clash, at a venue yet to be decided.

They will play a second game at Coffs Harbour with the winner decided on goal aggregate.

Andrew Reid

Return to Beijing Bound

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