Western Sydney coach Tony Popovic is pulling the positives from an underwhelming AFC Champions League campaign, viewing it as a vehicle that has fast-tracked the development of his youngest talent.
The Wanderers' continental foray is essentially over after their third loss in four outings -- a 3-2 home loss to FC Seoul -- sent them bottom of their group with two games remaining.
By virtue of Urawa Red Diamonds' 1-0 win over Shanghai SIPG (both nine points) in Tuesday night's other Group F match, Popovic's side (equal on three points with Seoul) must now beat both by significant margins and rely on other results going their way to have any hope of advancing to the knockout stages.
"It'll be difficult," a disappointed Popovic conceded. "We're in a group as well where there have been no draws so no one's dropping any points.
"You have a look at the other groups -- the leaders might be on four, five or six points.
"As a whole, in terms of results, disappointing."
The quality of Asian football is no doubt improving, but Popovic also pointed to his squad's relative youth compared with glossier prior campaigns highlighted by 2014's historic triumph.
He said young players lacking in extensive match conditioning will benefit from their first real experience of short turnarounds and long-haul travel between Asian and A-League commitments.
In particular, he singled out two of the club's rising stars in 20-year-old first-choice centre-back Jonathan Aspropotamitis and burgeoning 19-year-old striker Lachlan Scott.
Scott scored his second Champions League goal -- and the third of his senior career -- in injury time, adding to Terry Antonis' 77th-minute strike to bring his team to the brink of a three-goal comeback.
"It's clearly accelerating them," Popovic said. "Lachy fought hard -- the kid was cramping in the last 10 minutes and he scored a wonderful goal, a fantastic striker's goal.
"Jonathan was, I thought, very good. It's hard, you're speaking highly of your defenders and yet you concede three goals, but it was pretty much three attempts on goal and they scored three.
"So if you look at it as a whole they defended well."
In other Australian results, Adelaide United upset Jeju United 3-1 in Korea to climb from last to second in Group H.
Brisbane, last in Group E, host Kashima Antlers on Wednesday night.