He may not be a name many Australian football fans are familiar with, but Olyroos coach Graham Arnold is predicting Wollongong's Dylan Ryan to make a big impact at the upcoming AFC Under 23 Championships.
The defender has plied his trade in relative anonymity throughout the past four years, having joined Liverpool's academy as a 15-year-old in 2016 before linking up with Dutch Eredivisie club Willem II Tilburg in 2017.
While he is yet to play for the first team this season, Ryan has sat on the bench as a substitute in nine games.
The former Thirroul junior has done enough to impress Arnold, however, with Ryan featuring at the Australian Under 23s training camp in October and representing the Olyroos during the team's November tour of China.
With Ryan making the final 23-man squad for the Asian Championships, Arnold expects the talented teenager to attract plenty of attention throughout the competition.
"What I saw in China is he's a very talented boy," Arnold said. "He's got a great left foot, technically he's very good, he likes to carry the ball into the midfield.
"The kid's not sitting on the bench at a top four club if he's not doing something right at club level. Being signed for two and a half years over there already is a fantastic feat for the kid.
"He's one player Australian fans don't know too much about and I look forward to him surprising a lot of fans next month."
Ryan was the lone Illawarra talent to gain selection in the Australian Under 23 squad, with Tate Russell and Kai Calderbank-Park missing out on the final team to head to Thailand.
Arnold's squad features a mix of Australian and overseas-based players, the coach picking a quality squad for what is the most significant tournament the Olyroos have played in years.
The competition also doubles as the sole qualifier for next year's Olympics, with the two finalists and bronze medalist to book their place in Tokyo.
With defending champions Japan already guaranteed a place in the Olympic football tournament, the fourth-placed finisher will also progress to Tokyo should the Blue Samurai finish in the top three.
The Olyroos have been grouped with Iraq, Thailand and Bahrain, with the top-two sides moving on to the quarter-finals. Australia's first match is Wednesday January 8.
With the side striving to qualify for their first Olympics since 2008, Arnold, who is also the Socceroos coach, is confident the team can take out the competition.
"[Olympic qualification] is why we fought so hard to get the boys out of their overseas clubs and to get them here. It's why I fought so hard to have three representative camps in the FIFA windows. We go in there expecting to qualify.
"I know how important it is, I've done a lot of research on how important qualifying for the Olympics is. Every time you qualify produces six to seven future Socceroos. My whole vision when I took this job on was the create depth for the Socceroos and 2020 is a big year for that."
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