Australia’s U17 side – the Joeys – have been drawn alongside Ecuador, Hungary and five-time champions Nigeria in group B for the upcoming U17 World Cup in Brazil.
To be held in Brazil across October and November, 2019 will mark Australia’s return to the junior showcase after missing out on qualification for the 2017 tournament.
Led by Head Coach Trevor Morgan, the Joeys qualified for the World Cup after reaching the semi-finals of the 2018 AFC U16 Championships in Indonesia; defeating the host nation in the quarterfinals to secure their progression.
Also defeating Afghanistan and defending champions Iraq in the group stages, Australia nonetheless fell to both South Korea and Japan over the course of the tournament; demonstrating the work that still needs to be done for Morgan’s side.
The Koreans and Japanese, alongside Tajikistan, will also represent the Asian Football Confederation in Brazil.
Currently in Canberra for a pre-World Cup training camp, the Joeys will now look ahead to clashing with South American, European and well-heralded African opposition in three and a half months time.
Quarterfinalists in 1995 and 2015, Ecuador qualified for the World Cup at this year’s South American U17 Championships, although they did so by the skin of their teeth.
Advancing out of their initial group of five in third place, the Ecuadorians then secured progression to the World Cup as the fourth-placed finisher in the tournament’s final group stage with a final day, come-from-behind 4-1 win over eventual Argentina to pip Peru – who defeated Uruguay 3-2 on the final match-day – on goal difference.
Quarterfinalists in their only other appearance at the tournament in 1985, Hungary advanced to the World Cup as Europe’s fifth and last qualified side; forced into a do-or-die playoff with Belgium after falling to Spain on penalties in the 2019 U17 European Championships.
Locked at 1-1 at the end of 120 minutes against the Belgians, the Hungarians were this time able to hold their nerve in the resulting shootout: securing their place in Brazil after nailing all five of their spot kicks to Belgium’s four.
Five-time champions of the U17 World Cup – winning back-to-back trophies in 2013 and 2015 – 2019 will nonetheless mark a return to the world stage for the Golden Eaglets after missing out on qualification for the 2017 iteration of the tournament.
Head Coach Manu Garba’s side secured their passage to Brazil after finishing as semi-finalists at the 2019 Africa U17 Cup of Nations; topping a group also featuring Angola, Uganda and Tanzania before going down to Guinea on penalties in the semi-final.
In a twist, Guinea’s results would later by nullified by CAF after irregularities around player’s ages arose – their berth in the World Cup instead going to Senegal.
Australia will need to either finish in the top two of group B or as one four best third-placed sides from the six groups to advance to the knockout stages in Brazil.
Open to players born between 2002 and 2004, the 2019 U17 World Cup will kick off on 26 October and run through to 17 November.