Brisbane Roar defenders James Donachie and Corey Brown were named today in the Australian Under-23 squad that later this month begins qualification for the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil.
The pair is among 11 players from the Hyundai A-League and 12 overseas-based players in the squad named by Head Coach Aurelio Vidmar for the first round of qualifying in Chinese Taipei from 27-31 March.
As the Roar prepares to take on South Korea’s Suwon Samsung FC in AFC Champions League Matchday Three at Gold Coast Stadium, Robina, on Wednesday, the selection of central defender Donachie and left back Brown came just days after Roar captain midfielder Matt McKay and defender Luke DeVere were named in the Socceroos squad for friendly matches against Germany and Macedonia later this month.
The Australian U-23s have been group with hosts Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong and Myanmar.
They need to top the group or be among the best five second-placed teams from all 10 qualification groups to advance to the AFC U-23 Championships in Qatar early next year.
The top three teams from that tournament will earn the right to play at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Donachie said today that the extended run he and Brown have had in the Roar’s first team could help Australia’s bid to qualify for the Olympics.
“It’s awesome that both Corey and I have been picked. We play together at club level so that makes things easier because we’re comfortable with the way each other plays,” Donachie said.
“I’m excited for the tournament and to get more game time at national team level with those boys. It’s unfortunate that it’s on at the same time as the A-League but I’m looking forward to it and want to work hard to get good results over there.
“I’m only 21 now and in my time with the national team I’ve played against Germany U21 and the Netherlands junior teams and the players you can come up against are amazing. The experiences you get, playing against different players and some great teams, are massive for me as a young player.”
The Australians, who will be based in Kaohsiung City, open against Hong Kong (Friday, 27 March) followed by Chinese Taipei (Sunday, 29 March) and Myanmar (Tuesday, 31 March).
Vidmar’s squad also includes 2014 FIFA World Cup striker Adam Taggart, 2015 AFC Asian Cup winner Terry Antonis, Liverpool FC’s Brad Smith, Empoli midfielder Josh Brillante and former Roar striker Kwame Yeboah, who now plays in Germany with Borussia Monchengladbach.
“It’s exciting to start the qualification for the 2016 Olympic Games and we’ve put together a squad that has some good international experience and showing good form at club level, both in Australia and throughout Europe,” Vidmar said.
“The bulk of the squad played in the friendlies late last year when we defeated Korea Republic and drew with Brazil and we have been able to add some experienced firepower in Terry Antonis, Josh Brillante, Adam Taggart, Brad Smith, and Daniel Da Silva to that group.”
Vidmar will look to create the same environment and football structures, which propelled the Socceroos to victory in the 2015 AFC Asian Cup as part of the integration of the Australian National Teams structure.
“An important part of the changes that have been driven by Ange (Postecoglou) include aligning the structures of all the National teams to enable players to make a smooth transition through the age groups,” Vidmar said.
“The players will operate under the same conditions and structures as the Socceroos so they understand what is required to play international football, which will help in our endeavours to qualify for the Olympic Games but also assist with their development as footballers.”
The national call ups mean McKay, DeVere, Donachie and Brown are likely to miss three Hyundai A-League games – against Western Sydney Wanderers (25 March), Melbourne City (28 March) and Central Coast Mariners (2 April).
Australian under-23 squad: Mustafa Amini (Borussia Dortmund), Terry Antonis (Sydney FC), Josh Brillante (Empoli), Corey Brown (Brisbane Roar), Cameron Burgess (Ross County), Daniel Da Silva (Perth Glory), James Donachie (Brisbane Roar), Jack Duncan (gk) (Perth Glory), Ryan Edwards (Reading), Giancarlo Gallifuoco (Swansea), Scott Galloway (Melbourne Victory), Jason Geria (Melbourne Victory), John Hall (gk) (Adelaide United), Andrew Hoole (Newcastle Jets), Jackson Irvine (Ross County), Aaron Lennox (gk) (Queens Park Rangers), Jamie Maclaren (Perth Glory), Connor Pain (Melbourne Victory), Brad Smith (Liverpool), Adam Taggart (Fulham), Steve Ugarkovic (NK Osijek), Ryan Williams (Fulham), Kwame Yeboah (Borusia Monchengladbach).