The Olyroos were no match for South Korea
The Olyroos were no match for South Korea

Olyroos make early exit after Korea defeat

FOOTBALL: A late Olyroos comeback salvaged scoreline respectability but couldn't secure a passage into the Asian Under 23 Championships knockout phase.

South Korea beat Australia 3-2 in the final round to top Group D and advance to the quarter-finals alongside Vietnam, who drew with Syria.

The Olyroos surrendered a three-goal lead after 65 minutes after being two down at the break, before they sparked a revival that left South Korea nervous.

Industrious Newcastle Jets fullback Nick Cowburn and rapid Central Coast attacker Trent Buhagiar were rewarded for their toil with goals, both coming in off the right wing.

Germany-based Milislav Popovic, who like Buhagiar came off the bench, caused problems with his skill and delivery off the left as Adelaide United's George Blackwood had several late chances with his head but the Aussies were left to rue a shocking first half as they ran out of time.

"We definitely learned some lessons from this tournament and we'll reflect on it," Olyroos coach Ante Milicic said.

"That first pass out of pressure really let us down. When we played the ball into those central areas we got caught with our own decisions.

"There were too many turnovers in the first half and we just couldn't get into our rhythm.

"Korea is a very good team and a lot of that has to do with their aggressive approach and pressing, but it's definitely something we'll need to work and deal with better."

The loss left Australia third in the group with three points, above Syria (two points).

Despite missing a host of eligible players such as Brandon Borrello (Kaiserslautern), Seb Pasquali (Ajax), Chris Ikonomidis (Lazio), Jordan Lyden (Aston Villa) and Cameron Burgess (Scunthorpe United) and Asian teams rapidly improving, Australia's youth development pathways will again come into sharp focus.

The bulk of this squad will be eligible to play in the Asian U23 Championships in January 2020, which will double up as the Tokyo 2020 qualifiers.

AUSTRALIA 2 (Cowburn 72, Buhagiar 76)

SOUTH KOREA 3 (Keun-Ho 18, 65, Seung-Gyu 44)