Despite the cantankerous infighting that, unfortunately, seems all too common in Australian football showing no signs of abating; 2019 also marks a significant chance for the national sides of Australia to make their presence felt on the world stage.
In June, the sixth in the world ranked Matildas will, under new boss Ante Milicic, head to France to launch an assault on the most prestigious prize in world football – the World Cup.
Though controversy has dogged the group in recent months after the sacking of Alen Stajcic from his position as Head Coach, Australia will no doubt rally behind the ‘Tillies’ as they seek to secure the first ever World Championship in Australian footballing history.
That French odyssey, however, not be the only appearance on the world stage that an Australian side makes this year.
In October, the ‘Joeys’ – Australia’s U17 boys side – will head to Peru to take part in their first World Cup since 2015 under the guidance of gaffer Trevor Morgan.
Put in charge of the Joeys in July of 2018, Morgan steered his side to the World Cup by guiding them into the semi-finals of the U16 AFC Championships in October of 2018; joining South Korea, Japan and Tajikistan as Asia’s representatives at the world’s premier junior showcase.
Though his boys performed admirably in Malaysia as they secured passage to Peru, Morgan told dailyfootballshow.com that he wasn’t going to be playing any favourites with his squad and, with the tournament still eight months away, there was still a lot to be done to build depth and foster competition in the squad.
“There are players that have probably performed above others in the last championship, but this is young men’s football,” Morgan explained.
“I’ve been around teaching and coaching of young ones long enough to see that three months can make a massive difference, six months can make a massive difference.
“I think I should be looking at five to six and maybe more players per position that are close to the level we want for a World Cup.
“Keeping it open as long as possible so that you give as many players as possible a chance to be viewed, to show what they can do.
“I think maybe it’s just down to age groups. The same as if you buy a bottle of wine maybe the 2012 is better than the 2013.
“So, in this case, we’ve got some depth in the central midfield areas but I’m certainly looking to build greater depth in wide areas for the team.
“When we need to, when it gets closer to the tournament, we can say these are the ones that are best in from at the moment, that deserve and have earned the opportunity for the jersey.
“I think the kids have to accept that’s how the national team is. No one is guaranteed their spot.”
The next step in the Joeys quest to build their depth and for the best and brightest of Australia’s next generation to press their claim for a spot in Morgan’s squad will arrive in March, when the side travels to Turkey to take part in a UEFA organised invitational tournament.
Australia is the only nation not originating in Europe or Africa to receive an invite to the competition, which is primarily serving as a preparatory hit out for sides competing in the upcoming U17 African and European Championships that will serve as qualifiers for the World Cup.
Australia will meet Tanzania, Guinea and Turkey during their spell in Antalya and Morgan declared the tournament as an important opportunity to assess the 20 players named in his squad last week.
“We’ve done some initial analysis of (Tanzania and Guinea) in terms of some recent matches they’ve played, and I’ve got to go through them with my staff,” Morgan said.
“But, realistically, because it’s a tournament that’s more for getting experience into players I’ll be making some substitutions more on getting people enough opportunity to play rather than to just win the match.
“When you analyse those teams you’re not as concerned with… you’re looking at broader topics, their general way of playing and etcetera because I’m going to make more changes in the team during matches.
“I want to know what they do but I’m going to be far more interested in what we do because it’s not lose and you’re out. It’s learning opportunities and a chance for people to play so we’ll prepare them, but we won’t be going crazy with detail.
“During this tournament, we get two teams from Africa and one team from Europe.
“They’re (Turkey) obviously the host of the tournament, they’ll be wanting to do well in their own country.
“For us, (it’s) just different opponents to what we’ve had in Asia so it’s excellent experience for our boys.
“There’s a lot of things we’re working on. We’ve had invitations to tournaments.
“But, in terms of locking into anything my thinking is it would be best to wait until after the World Cup draw is done because that will be late May after the European Championships and after the African Championships.
“Then we’ll know who we’re going to play so then, obviously, you choose what tournaments and preparation you’ll do once you know that.”
Much has been made of Australia’s inability to succeed at a youth level in recent times, with Australia’s U23 side and U20 side failing to progress out of Asia in their most recent attempts.
The Joeys, however, represent a golden opportunity for the next generation of Australian talent to grow, develop and impress on the world stage, something that Morgan is very cognizant of.
“My objective now is to select the players that deserve to represent the country at the highest level,” Morgan elucidated.
“Their ultimate goal should be to be a senior professional and eventually a Socceroo.
“The last time the Joeys did exceptionally well in a World Cup in 1999 some boys in that squad were moving to overseas clubs of a high level that year… Jess Vanstrattan went to Juventus.
“So, obviously, if we were to perform exceptionally well in a World Cup circumstance there’s a chance some of the boys could have major moves in their career.
“That’s my main objective: can we put before the world a team that all Australian’s can be proud of?”