'Hate to be in his shoes': Olyroos coach on Irankunda

Olyroos coach Tony Vidmar is refusing to put a line through Nestory Irankunda’s hopes of playing at the Paris Olympics after claiming he is putting the Adelaide wonderkid first by leaving him out of the U23 Asian Cup squad.

The 18-year-old Irankunda, who will leave Adelaide for German giants Bayern Munich at the end of this A-League Men season, was not included in Vidmar’s squad announced on Thursday.

Australia can guarantee their place at the Paris Games by finishing in the top three at the U23 Asian Cup in Qatar, which runs between April 8 and May 3.

But despite his game-changing ability, the dynamic Irankunda has been overlooked.

Vidmar said he didn’t want to burden the teenager, who is arguably the most exciting Australian talent in decades, with further pressure.

"With Nestory, we have to be mindful, I’ve met with him on a couple of occasions," Vidmar said.

"What has happened to him this season, I think he’s on a rollercoaster 24/7 - that’s the way he is and we have to look at the bigger picture.

"We don’t have the luxury of having a thousand of those players where you can throw them against the wall and they break and you don’t use them.

"He has been through so much this year, I’d hate to be in his shoes. He has been prodded and poked and everyone wants a piece of him.

"He’s just turned 18, it’s a big ask for him … the person is number one.

"I could be selfish and just bring in him for the sake of it but we feel that the bigger picture is the Socceroos, you want to be talking about him for the next 15 years as a national team player."

Vidmar said Irankunda remained in the frame for the Olympics should they qualify.

"He’s always been in consideration (for Paris) and on our list of players.

"He is one where after the Olympic qualifiers it’ll be about having that discussion again and he likes that contact.

"He’s been open with me about a lot of things, but I don’t want to divulge them because that’s a trust and a relationship I’m building with him."

Irankunda’s absence follows another testing period for Australia’s squad depth.

While Melbourne City winger Marco Tilio, who scored at the Tokyo Games in Australia’s win against Argentina, returns to the fold, there are several key players who have been deemed unavailable for the tournament.

Marco Tilio.
Marco Tilio (2L) is congratulated after netting against Argentina at the Tokyo Olympics.

Parma defender Alessandro Circati, Hearts midfielder Calem Niuewenhof and newly-capped Socceroo Patrick Yazbek of Norwegian club Viking have not gained releases from their clubs given the tournament falls outside international windows.

"All of those players were so keen and desperate to be involved," Vidmar said.

"We’re very disappointed the clubs haven’t released them."

Australia face Jordan, Indonesia and hosts Qatar in the group stage with heavyweights Japan and South Korea their most likely opponents in the quarter-finals.


Goalkeepers: Patrick Beach, Cameron Cook, Steven Hall

Defenders: Jordan Courtney-Perkins, Jacob Farrell, Jake Girdwood-Reich, Jacob Italiano, Mark Natta, Alexandar Popovic, Callum Talbot

Midfielders: Louis D'Arrigo, Jake Hollman, Adrian Segecic, Ryan Teague, Jordi Valadon, Rhys Youlley

Forwards: Lachlan Brook, Alou Kuol, Garang Kuol, Nicolas Milanovic, Mohamed Toure, Nishan Velupillay.

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