"We lack, in our country, tough international matches for our youth teams": Aurelio Vidmar.

"We lack, in our country, tough international matches for our youth teams": Aurelio Vidmar. Photo: Getty Images

Olyroos coach Aurelio Vidmar says the Asian Under-22 Championship is an invaluable learning curve for his players as he hit back at criticism from A-League coaches who have lost players to the national team for the tournament.

Vidmar defended his selection policy and the tournament's status after being criticised by Newcastle Jets coach Gary Van Egmond and Melbourne Victory's Kevin Muscat. He highlighted the need for Australia to play more meaningful youth internationals to develop talented youngsters.

''I went well out of my way this tournament not to bring anyone into any camp prior to them coming away here, so there was a little bit of a concession there on my part and it's an important tournament, it's not a nothing tournament as I've been hearing,'' Vidmar said. ''It's an extremely [important] tournament because in a year's time, these boys will get the opportunity to play in a tournament again to help qualify for the Olympics.''

Australia sealed their qualification to the knockout stages with a 1-0 victory over Iran in Oman on Wednesday morning and are guaranteed to finish first in Group C after winning their opening two games. The Olyroos will face either Uzbekistan or Saudi Arabia in the quarter-finals and, despite their impressive performances, Vidmar said their early success was an overachievement. The tournament caters for players born in either 1991 or 1992, yet Vidmar selected a squad mostly comprised of younger players born in 1993 and 1994 in order to prepare them for Olympic qualifiers and other tournaments. The Olyroos boss believes Australia entered the tournament as underdogs due to their young composition and lack of preparation.

''We lack, in our country, tough international matches for our youth teams,'' Vidmar said. ''I spoke to the Omani assistant coach the other night and he told me that last year they played 25 international games. That's how far away we are from being really competitive at any youth level. We're punching probably a little bit above our weight because we're not getting the tough international matches. For me, games like these are so invaluable.''

Further justifying bringing A-League players away from their clubs, Vidmar said there were coaches and scouts from European clubs watching from the stands in search of young talent.

''I've seen some coaches from Europe, some who are working and some who aren't working, in the stands,'' Vidmar said. ''This tournament - in a year's time, when they decide on the date of the qualifiers - I'm sure there will be a lot more scouts and people watching. Generally they don't say too much, they just go about and do their business. It's normal that you get one or two in a tournament like this.''