Australia have booked their place as the final Asian representative in the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics Men’s Football Tournament. They sealed their berth by securing a third-place finish at the AFC U23 Championships with a victory over Uzbekistan, following hosts Japan and tournament finalists Saudi Arabia and South Korea into the Games.
Qualification for the Olyroos looked uncertain after a shaky showing in the group stage, as they followed a 1-1 draw with Iraq on the opening day with a poor performance in the first half against hosts Thailand which saw them go into the break trailing.
However, a revival in the second half of that match re-energized their campaign, as Australia ran out 2-1 winners before booking their place in the knockout round with a 1-1 draw against Bahrain. Syria stood in their way for the quarter-finals, where a goal in extra time was needed to see them through before a loss to South Korea sent them into the third-place playoff.
Meanwhile, Uzbekistan muscled their way out of what was most certainly the tournament’s most difficult group, eliminating Iran and China to progress from Group C along with South Korea. They followed this with a 5-1 demolition of UAE in the quarter-finals which made the rest of the tournament sit up and take notice of the Central Asian side as possible contenders for the crown.
However, a narrow 1-0 loss against Saudi Arabia meant that they were forced to play for the final berth against Australia in the tournament’s penultimate match.
The game’s only goal came just a couple of minutes into the second half, as an excellent individual effort from Nicholas D’Agostino undid the Central Asian side’s sturdy defense and gave Australia the lead. It was the attacker’s third goal of the campaign, making him the competitions’ equal highest goalscorer.
Things went from bad to worse for Uzbekistan, who were reduced to ten men just before the hour mark. Despite dominating the game in terms of both possession and total attempts at goal, the side once again failed to pull the result over the line, meaning that Australia will be heading to the Olympics this summer.