'I was in tears for a couple of days': Jamie Maclaren's Olyroos heartbreak

As preparations ramp up for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Football Tournament, Socceroos striker Jamie Maclaren can't help but remember the heartbreak he suffered four years ago. 

While Australia's third-placed finish at the 2020 AFC U-23 Championships in Thailand sparked scenes of jubilation as the Olyroos qualified for Tokyo 2020, the Melbourne City marksman was part of the Australian squad who were unsuccessful at the same tournament four years earlier. 

The 2016 AFC U-23 Championships in Qatar saw a team including Maclaren and the likes of Mustafa Amini, Adam Taggart and Alex Gersbach eliminated from the group stages after a frustrating 0-0 draw with Jordan.

READ: Arnold welcomes selection headaches after youth talent boom
READ: Socceroos at Home: Duke's Western Sydney Wanderers homecoming & Grant's unfortunate time in front of goal

Socceroos Browser Extension Thin Banner

 During this week's ABC Grandstand Football Podcast, the Socceroos striker reflected on the heavy mental blow that campaign inflicted. 

"For me, we missed our chance (to represent Australia at the Olympics), " he said. 

"When I was when I was playing under Aurelio Vidmar it was a distraught time because I didn't know if I was ever going to play Socceroos, so that was probably the last time I was ever going to put on a Green and Gold jersey.

"I was in tears for a couple of days after that Jordan result we didn't qualify so I feel I kind of missed that boat." 

Olyroos 2016
Australia's U-23's side that took on Jordan during the 2016 AFC U-23 Championships in Qatar 

In the years that followed, Maclaren's fears were not confirmed as he went on to make his senior international debut against England in May 2016 and was selected in Australia's 2018 FIFA World Cup squad. 

Fast forward to 2021, the 27-year-old is now using his club and international experience to inspire his younger teammates at Melbourne City, including Tom Glover, Connor Metcalfe, Nathaniel Atkinson and Aiden O'Neill who were all included in the most recent Australian U-23's training camp back in November. 

"Now I've got a couple of teammates here (at Melbourne City) in the Olyroos squad and it's great to see," he said.

"Obviously the young boys across the league are doing fantastic and putting their hands up and in this Olyroos team so there's going to be limited spots available." 

Australia U-23 Men's v Macarthur FC - starting XI
The Australia U-23's ahead of their November friendly versus Macarthur FC

Maclaren speaks as passionately as anyone about what it means to pull on the Green and Gold. 

Many Australian football fans may not be familiar with the lesser-known story of how his first taste of international football came with Scotland's under 19's.  

"So basically, the assistant coach of victory now Steve Cain was at Blackburn at the time and got informed that Scotland under 19's wanted to call me up," Maclaren recalled. 

"At the time I had no contact from the Australian Federation so I went and played two games for Scotland against Norway and Denmark and really enjoyed it, albeit didn't know the Scotland the national anthem! It was a proud moment and I think my dad was a lot prouder than I was.

Maclaren U20 WC
After confirming his allegiance to Australia, Maclaren pulled on the Green and Gold at the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup where he scored against hosts Turkey

"But then I got a call saying 'basically you've got a choice, if you choose to play with Scotland in the UEFA U19 Championships, then your Green and Gold dream is over', and that was kind of as as harsh as he put it.

So I just had to make a decision and ended up calling the coach Billy Stark in Scotland and said 'look, I'm green and gold through and through, I love my country.' That was it , that was my decision and Scotland was put behind me." 

Maclaren's decision has certainly paid off, with him scoring five goals in 15 Socceroos appearances to date, including a memorable hat-trick against Nepal in 2019.  

The reigning A-League Golden Boot winner has three goals in six matches so far this A-league season and will take on defending champions Sydney FC in a Grand Final replay on Tuesday night. 

WATCH: Maclaren cherishes his 'proudest moment' following Nepal hat-trick