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 By Paul Murphy

Mauk, Cowburn goals help Australia beat Thailand in AFC U23 friendly

Jason Dasey and PJ Roberts evaluate Australia's World Cup group and assess whether they or any other Asian teams can progress.
The FC crew explain why Australia's outlook at the World Cup is dreary after being drawn with France, Peru and Denmark.
ESPN's Julien Laurens believes France will be very happy after drawing Australia, Peru and Denmark.

Australia's under-23 side emerged with a 2-1 victory over Thailand in the final warm-up match before the AFC U23 Championship begins in China this week.

Goals from Nicholas Cowburn and Stefan Mauk earned the win for the Olyroos before Supachok Sarachat struck a consolation for the Thais.

It took just eight minutes for the Aussies to open the scoring as Newcastle Jets defender Cowburn volleyed home on the rebound after Aleksandar Susnjar's header had hit the bar.

There were more opportunities in the first half, with striker Trent Buhagiar's pace causing problems for the Thai defence, but no further goals.

Head coach Ante Milicic took the opportunity to have a look at his squad ahead of the Aussies' Group D opener against Syria on Jan. 11 by making five changes at half-time.

And one of the substitutes, Melbourne City midfielder Mauk, soon made his mark as he extended Australia's lead in the 52nd-minute, finishing off a neat move.

Milicic made another five changes on the hour mark as he sought to give everyone in the squad a run-out, and this obviously disrupted the flow of the game.

Supachok then struck for the Thais with 20 minutes remaining, and the Aussies were grateful to goalkeeper Danijel Nizic as he made a number of saves to keep the lead in intact.

The Thais spurned several chances in the closing stages, but in the end, Milicic's side completed their preparations for the AFC tournament with a narrow victory over Zoran Jankovic's spirited Thailand team.

The Olyroos kick off their campaign against the Syrians on Thursday before taking on Vietnam on Jan. 14.

They then come up against South Korea on Jan. 17 as they bid to lift the U23 title and follow in the footsteps of the senior team who won the AFC Asian Cup in 2015.

Bangkok-based Paul Murphy has lived in Asia for a decade, writing for ESPN FC since 2014. He is a former Daily Express sub-editor. @PaulMurphyBKK

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