Fit Taggart a boost for depleted Olyroos

Young sensation Adam Taggart will be fit for the Olyroos’ opening game on Friday as the Australians begin their campaign to qualify for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

The Olyroos kick-off their Asian Football Confederation Under-23’s qualifying campaign against Hong Kong in Taiwan on Friday at 7pm AEDT.

Australia, who failed to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics, are expected to ease through their preliminary group against Hong Kong, Myanmar and Chinese Taipei.

Coach Aurelio Vidmar has selected a strong squad for the three matches coming up over the next five days, although Taggart has been under an injury cloud.

The 21-year-old World Cup Socceroo has endured an injury cursed 2014-15 season following a groin injury and strained his hamstring at Fulham training earlier this month.

“He’s fine - he moved around quite freely yesterday,” Vidmar said ahead of the team’s final training session in Kaohsiung on Thursday.

“He seems to be fine and hasn’t pulled up sore.

“We’ll go through our last paces this morning but the way he looks at the moment, he’s in good nick.”

The 2013-14 A-League Golden Boot winner’s fitness is a major boost for Vidmar who is without injured duo Terry Antonis and Kwame Yeboah.

Lazio teenager Chris Ikonomidis is also unavailable due to Socceroos duty and Vidmar insisted there was a clear link between impressing at Olyroos level and a senior call-up with the current set-up led by Ange Postecoglou.

“I keep telling them 'everything you're doing here always gets reported back to Ange, gets reported back to the federation,” Vidmar said.

“They know they’re being watched and monitored on a daily basis.

“If they’ve got serious ambitions about being an international footballer with the Socceroos, this is the next step.

“They know they're only one step away from getting a phone call."

Beyond immediate Socceroos ambitions, Vidmar knows the importance to a footballers’ development of quality under-age international football.

Vidmar scored twice at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics as Australia took a shock 2-0 lead over Spain, before losing 3-2 and bowing out.

Having been in charge when the Olyroos missed qualification in 2012, Vidmar is determined to right the wrongs of the past campaign and give this generation the experience he had almost 20 years ago.

“It’s always fantastic going to the Olympic games and playing at that level,” Vidmar said.

 “We were only a few minutes away from qualifying for the quarter-finals. Unfortunately we conceded very very late.

“We had three very tough international games there. Hopefully if we can qualify, these guys will get this experience.

“It’s an extremely important part of their development. Qualifying will give them that.

“We’re hoping qualifying past this stage, we’re able to give these players some more international experience which can harden them up as footballers and in preparation to succeed at international level.”