There may still be more than 250 days until next year’s Olympic Games gets underway but Australian U-23 playmaker Denis Genreau knows he needs to make every single one count if he wants to be on the plane to Tokyo.
And that goal of playing at the Olympics for the 21-year-old has begun in earnest this week as part of a 26 strong Australian-based player camp in Sydney.
It’s the first chance coach Graham Arnold has had to get the bulk of his squad together since their memorable qualification tournament in Thailand in January.
During the nine-day training camp, the Aussie youngsters will also play friendly matches against Hyundai A-League Champions Sydney FC (Thursday, November 12) and newcomers Macarthur FC (Tuesday, November 17).
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With their Thailand heroics now firmly in the rear-vision mirror, Arnold’s message to his players so far is that this camp in now a fresh start, with everyone needing to put their best foot forward if they want to make their Olympic dream come true.
It’s a point very much at the forefront of Genreau’s mind ahead of Thursday’s clash against the Sky Blues at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium.
MATCH PREVIEW: Australia U-23 v Sydney FC
“The next six months to a year are really important for everyone in the U-23 age group. There’s a lot of important things coming up and important games,” Genreau told socceroos.com.au from inside the team camp in Sydney.
“Obviously the road to Tokyo has resumed now and that’s what is so exciting.
“To put the jersey back on and have a goal to work towards to with these Olympic Games coming up is super exciting.
“To have been part of the journey so far has been awesome but all of us want to be a part of it and get our spot at the Olympics.”
As well as the 26 local-based players in this camp, Arnold and his staff are also keeping tabs on a host of overseas-based talent that will also come into his calculations for Tokyo.
There is plenty of competition for places in the squad, which Genreau believes augurs well for the future.
It’s also placed a bit of added pressure on every player to ensure they are playing well and regularly for their clubs between now and next July.
Paris-born Genreau has joined new A-League outfit Macarthur FC this season and knows the importance of making an instant impact with Ante Milicic’s impressive squad.
“I’m really excited to join Macarthur, a new club, a fresh start for me personally and I have coaches that really believe in me and coaches that believe in the players he has brought in,” Genreau said.
“Ante [Milicic] has brought in a certain type of player and for me it’s just about getting game minutes, doing well for the team and doing well for myself and getting a spot hopefully for those Olympic Games.”
Re-uniting in camp this week has allowed the players to reminisce about their incredible achievement to qualify for Australia’s first men’s Olympic football tournament since 2008.
Genreau is one of 11 players in this squad that played in Thailand earlier this year and admits the experience has garnered a tight bond amongst the group.
“It was an awesome feeling. It feels like it was a long time ago but every time we talk about it or we remember it was awesome,” the former Melbourne City and PEC Zwolle midfielder said.
“It’s a great honour to be part of that selection and to qualify was awesome.
“It’s those kind of memories that you build as a team that will stay with you forever.
He added: “We’re all from different clubs but when we come back together and wear this jersey we always have to do ourselves proud and do the country proud.”
Asked about the challenge of facing two A-League clubs over the next six days, Genreau said: “It’s going to be really exciting to play against Sydney.
“They are the benchmark of the league and have been together for a few years so it’s going to be a tough game.
“Macarthur, I know all the boys there so it will be fun to play against them.
“But all the players just want to impress Arnie and show him how we’ve improved over the last year and how we can help him in the future.”
A limited number of tickets will be available for the Sydney FC clash (due to COVID-19 protocols) which kicks off at 7pm with tickets on sale now via Ticketek.
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Australia U-23 Men’s National Football Team v Sydney FC
Venue: Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, Kogarah, New South Wales
Date: Thursday, 12 November 2020
Kick-off: 7:00pm AEDT
Tickets: GET YOUR TICKETS HERE (limited number of tickets due to COVID-19 protocols available online only)
Broadcast: Live via Facebook (Socceroos, Sydney FC, A-League), Kayo Sports, My Football Live App, My Football YouTube