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Australia had qualified for the 1988 Seoul Olympics after successfully negotiating their first round opponents Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), winning 3-0 both in Taipei (Nov ’87) and in Canberra (Feb ’88). Papua New Guinea had been meant to complete a group with the pair, but had withdrawn. As a result, both Australia and Chinese Taipei went on through to the second round qualification group stage. 

Played out across three weeks in March ’88, with six ties in Australia and six subsequently in New Zealand, the group stage was a round-robin competition involving the pair of host nations as well as said Chinese Taipei and even Israel. Australia won their three matches on home soil, and went on to draw with both Israel and their old foes New Zealand in Christchurch and Wellington respectively. This ultimately saw them through as winners of the group (with a 4-2-0 record), a point ahead of the Israelis. 

Manager Frank Arok brought a 20 man strong squad to South Korea, and these were those who travelled: 

1 Jeff Olver, 27, Heidelberg United (goalkeeper)
2 Gary van Egmond, 23, Footscray JUST (defender)
3 Graham Jennings, 28, Sydney Croatia (defender)
4 Charlie Yankos, 27, APIA Leichhardt (defender)
5 Robbie Dunn, 28, Melbourne Croatia (defender)
6 Paul Wade, 26, South Melbourne (midfielder)
7 Frank Farina, 24, Marconi Fairfield (forward)
8 Mike Petersen, 23, South Melbourne (midfielder)
9 Graham Arnold, 25, Sydney United (forward)
10 John Kosmina, 32 Sydney Olympic (forward)
11 Oscar Crino, 26, Anorthosis (midfielder)
12 Alan Davidson, 28, Melbourne Croatia (defender/midfielder)
13 Alex Tobin, 22, Adelaide City (defender)
14 Alan Hunter, 24, Brisbane Lions (defender)
15 Andrew Koczka, 23, St George Saints (defender)
16 Vlado Bozinoski, 24, Footscray JUST (midfielder)
17 Robbie Slater, 23, Sydney Croatia (midfielder)
18 Dave Mitchell, 26, Feyenoord (forward)
19 Scott Ollerenshaw, 20, St George Saints (winger)
20 Michael Gibson, 25, Penrith City (goalkeeper)

Arok had brought a squad mixed with experience and youth. Seven of these players had featured for the Socceroos in their intercontinental play-off defeat against Scotland in qualification for the 1986 World Cup. They would go on and give an excellent account of themselves in Seoul, as they progressed through from the group stage, thanks mainly to a stunning opening tie win against a fancied Yugoslav side. With Arok coming up against his country of birth, he’d been forgiven for displaying mixed emotions after the 1-0 win. Australia ultimately bowed out to future winners USSR at the quarter-finals stage. 

These were their results: 

Group D:
18/9: Yugoslavia 1-0 (Farina)
20/9: Brazil 0-3
22/9: Nigeria 1-0 (Kosmina)

25/9: Soviet Union 0-3