Joeys Head Coach Trevor Morgan has declared his pride in his young group after they ensured their progression to the 2019 U17 World Cup in Peru with a 3-2 win in the quarter-finals of the AFC U16 Championships.
Heading into half time down 1-0 to Indonesia in Monday evening’s contest thanks to a sweetly taken 16th-minute strike from Sutan Diego, the Joeys rallied in the second half with goals to Daniel Walsh (Perth Glory), Adam Leombruno (FFSA NTC) and Noah Botic (Rockdale City Suns).
Indonesia’s Rendy Juliansyah got on the end of a looping ball over the top of the Joeys defence before rounding goalkeeper Adam Pavlesic (Sydney FC) and scoring to make things interesting 89th minute, but Fachry Husaini’s group were ultimately unable to find a crucial late equaliser.
Australia had missed the last U17 World Cup held in 2017; Iran, Iraq, Japan and North Korea representing the AFC in the Indian hosted tournament eventually won by England.
Australia’s last berth in the junior showcase came in the 2015 edition of the tournament in Chile.
Suffering a heavy 4-1 defeat to Germany in their opening contest of that tournament, Australia nonetheless bounced back to force a 0-0 draw with Mexico and a 2-1 victory over Argentina thanks to a brace from Nicholas Panetta to advance to the knockout stages of the tournament.
There, however, the Joeys ran into the juggernaut that was Nigeria; going down 6-0 to a Golden Eaglets that went on to claim its fifth U17 World Cup.
On Monday night, Morgan declared his appreciation for his team’s ability to bounce back from their heavy 3-0 defeat to South Korea in their opening game of the tournament to secure a World Cup berth and a spot in the semifinals of the championship.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the group,” Morgan said.
“We had a slow start to the tournament with a loss against South Korea, however, since then have shown quality and resilience to secure wins over Iraq, Afghanistan, and Indonesia which has helped us achieve our first target of this championship – a place at next year’s FIFA U17 World Cup.
“In a short period of time we have grown as a group, and we will now play Japan for a place in the final of the AFC U16 Championship.
“Japan will be an immensely tough opponent on Thursday, however, we will enter the game with the belief that we can win the match and progress to the final.
“Qualification for next year’s World Cup in Peru will ensure more high-level international matches for this group of youngsters over the next 12 months, which will be critical to their development as footballers.
“While our focus must be on Thursday’s semi-final, we must also recognise that qualification for the World Cup is an incredible achievement for everyone involved with the team and enjoy the moment.”
Australia will clash with Japan at the Bukit Jalil Stadium on Thursday evening with a place in the final on the line. Kick-off is set for 4:30pm local – 6:30pm AEST.
HEADER IMAGE CREDIT: FOOTBALL FEDERATION AUSTRALIA