The Young Socceroos quest to qualify for next year’s U20 World Cup will continue tonight; taking on Vietnam in Group C’s matchday two at the AFC U19 Championships in Indonesia.
An 89th-minute wonder strike from Ramy Najjarine ensured that the Young Socceroos did just enough to earn a point in their opening fixture of the Championships against the Koreans last Friday; the last gap shot from the Melbourne City linked youngster cancelling out the 52nd-minute opener from Jeon Se-Jin.
Despite showing flashes in the first half – Adelaide United’s Apostolos Stamatelopoulos, Ipswich Town’s Ben Folami and Ajax’s Seb Pasquali the Young Socceroos best – Australia would likely consider themselves lucky to have escaped that fixture with a point after the Koreans dominated the second half.
Taking advantage of the Young Socceroos being forced to chase the game after going down a goal to nil, the Koreans displayed a masterclass in counter-attacking football in the game’s second stanza: time and time again rapidly transitioning from defence to attack and laying siege to Melbourne City goalkeeper James Delianov.
Um Won-sang, in particular, had a field day as he marauded up and down Australia’s defensive left flank; the Ajou University student only kept off the scoresheet through a combination of the crossbar and some superb goalkeeping from Delianov.
Nonetheless, despite this pressure, the Young Socceroos displayed great grit in overcoming not only the steamy conditions at the Patriot Chandrabhaga Stadium but also a pre-tournament preparation that paled in comparison to that of their East Asian opponents, something that Milicic praised post game.
“I’m extremely proud of the playing group,” Milicic said.
“The boys that started, and the ones that came on all made an impact and that was important.
“Everyone gave their maximum, and although we did fall behind, we showed our character. Players still wanted the ball and they believed in getting the result from the game.
“With the limited preparation that we’ve had, I thought we were very organised.
“We defended well, and we had a few chances on the break. There was a stage where we conceded territory in transition moments and we looked vulnerable at times, but we never gave up and it was a good Australian performance and I felt that we deserved the point we got from the game.
“These are young boys. Confidence is important and so is momentum. There’s not a lot of time in between games to adjust the atmosphere.
“The boys have worked extremely hard, now it’s all about a quick preparation for Vietnam, who we know is going to be a strong game.”
Australia’s opponents Vietnam will enter tonight’s fixture staring down the barrel of an early elimination from the tournament.
Despite taking the lead against Jordan after Nham Manh Dung got his head on the end of headed pass from Dang Van Toi in the 21st minute of their opening fixture, the Young Rồng Vàng were unable to hold onto their lead against their Middle Eastern opponents: shipping a 29th minute equaliser to Mohammad Atieh and a heartbreaking, 89th minute dagger to Mohammad Alzu’bi to suffer a 2-1 defeat.
Compounding matters for the Vietnamese, defensive foundation and captain Dang Van Toi – who plies his trade with Hanoi FC – suffered an 85th-minute injury that forced him from the field, with his availability for tonight’s fixture now under a cloud.
“After losing a game late, the psychology can be a problem,” Vietnamese head coach Hoang Anh Tuan said ahead of tonight’s fixture.
“But we know that this is possible in football. You can win, you draw or you can lose, but we must make our players understand that they need to look forward.
“The first game is over, we must forget about it and move forward, and focus our concentration on the next game.
“Australia and South Korea are both very difficult for us, but a small chance is still a chance.
“If we try to work hard and fight (we have a chance). No, it’s not easy, but I hope our players can change our situation.”
If Australia is to secure a victory over the Vietnamese tonight, they will have to do so without the services of Everton central-defender Con Ouzondis, who the AFC are reporting was shown a second yellow card in the dying moments of the South Korean clash.
Dylan Ryan of Willem II in the Dutch Eredivisie looms as Ouzondis best like-for-like replacement, with Western Sydney Wanderers left-back Mathieu Cordier and Melbourne City right-back Dylan Pierias also possible replacements.
The Young Socceroos game against Vietnam will kick-off at 8:00 pm tonight.
HEADER IMAGE: THE AFC