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Australia top group at AFC U23 Championship, inch closer to Olympics qualification

A proud Graham Arnold knows the Olyroos will have to improve if they are to win their next two games at the AFC U23 Championship and secure a place at the Olympics for the first time since 2008.

A tense 1-1 draw with Bahrain at Thammasat Stadium was good enough for Australia to top their group at the continental championship and advance to the quarter-finals along with hosts Thailand.

Australia remained unbeaten in Group A with one win and two draws and will face Syria, Saudi Arabia or Qatar at Bangkok's Rajamangala Stadium on Saturday (Sunday AEDT) for a spot in the semi-finals.

The tournament's top three will qualify to Tokyo 2020 later this year and join Games hosts Japan as Asia's contingent.

A neat left-foot finish from Ramy Najjarine after he was played in by a sublime Rene Piscopo through-ball on 34 minutes put the Olyroos ahead on Tuesday night.

Bahrain's Mohamed Marhoon equalised on the stroke of halftime when he fired past Thomas Glover direct from a free kick.

Both teams squandered chances in the second half to win the match with substitute Nicholas D'Agostino - Australia's two-goal hero in the win over Thailand on Saturday - guilty of a glaring miss in stoppage time when he flashed a header wide with the goal at his mercy.

Arnold was pleased for the Australians to have completed part one of the qualifying equation.

"It was the first time since 2014 that the Olympic team has got through this first phase, and that was our first goal," he said.

"Now we really have to step up with improvement in our performance.

"It is a learning experience for these young kids to play in these tournaments."

The Olyroos will have the advantage of a day's extra rest over their next opponents with Arnold's focus now on getting his team prepared physically and mentally.

"I think the boys have done exceptionally well in this climate to play three games in six day, not many would have done that in a long time, so we will get them fresh and ready," he said.

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