In the midst of the 2019 AFF U18 Championships in Vietnam, his first tournament in charge of the Young Socceroos, Head Coach Gary van Egmond says he’s relatively pleased with what he’s seen in his short time in charge.
Named to the post in June, van Egmond got his first look at the cohort that will look to qualify for Australia’s first U20 World Cup since 2013 in a five-day, 30-player training camp in Canberra in late July
From there, he, his staff and 22 players (goalkeeper Kai Calderbank-Park missed the training camp thanks to commitments with club side Burnley but met up with the squad at the Championships) jetted off to Vietnam for the AFF U18 Championships.
Hitting the ground running after goals to Kai Trewin, Dylan Ruiz-Diaz, Harry McCarthy and a brace from Lleyton Brooks propelled them to a 5-1 win over Cambodia, the Young Socceroos battled to a slightly flattering 4-1 win in their second match against Vietnam on Friday night after a strike from Lachlan Brook and hattrick from Marco Tilio.
“You have to see where the players are at and what areas we can work on,” van Egmond told dailyfootballshow.com from Vietnam.
“There’s obviously a lot of areas we can improve in; the style of play that we want to look at and to employ with this group.
“From a result point of view? Very happy. There’s a lot of good things that we did in the (Vietnam) game, in particular how we controlled the game with our defensive shape – which was good. There were some good moments in regards to how we moved the ball.
“But, overall, the boys are doing fantastically. It’s a fantastic experience for them and fantastic for their development.”
The Young Socceroos are set to begin their quest to reach the 2021 U20 World Cup this coming November when they travel to Taiwan to take on their host nation, Macau and Laos in 2020 AFC U19 Championship qualifying.
Topping that group, or finishing as one of the four best runners up from amongst the eleven qualifying groups, will secure the side a place in the AFC Championships that, in turn, serve as World Cup qualification.
With his side competing at the AFF U18 Championships for the first time since 2016, van Egmond said that it would serve as precious preparation for the road that lay ahead.
“This is invaluable,” he began.
“There are no easy games in Asia and we’re in a position to get these games. We’re in a really good group, it’s very competitive.
“The international exposure for these kids is vital for their development and, not only from a football perspective but also how you conduct yourself in a foreign country.
“Some kids have never been overseas before; experienced the food, the bed, the shower, the training fields, the heat, the traffic and all of the other variables that come into what it’s like to be in a tournament.
“What do you do in between games? How do you conduct yourself? How do you not go stir crazy? How do you manage time?
“And then, on top of that, you’ve got your football.”
The Young Socceroos will on Sunday night clash with Thailand in their third game of the tournament. That will then be followed by a meeting with Malaysia on Tuesday evening and a match against Singapore – whose National Technical Director is former Melbourne City youth doyen Joe Palatsides – on Thursday.
Should they progress from their group, the Young Socceroos would then head to a semi-final held in Binh Duong on August 17 and, should that result go their way, a final in Thong Nhat on August 19.
Despite the large margins of victory in their first two games, though, such a progression can not be counted upon as a fait accompli by van Egmond’s side; a selection of Australian U15 talent led by Joeys Head Coach Trevor Morgan failing to advance beyond the recent group stages of the recent AFF U15 Championships.
Van Egmond said that he was looking for more improvement from his side in the coming fixtures, but stressed that the nature of the AFF Championships meant major leaps between games shouldn’t be expected.
“I think the whole basis of our playing style, especially in the build-up; getting them to become better,” van Egmond said when asked what he wanted to see in the coming games.
“But that takes a long time. To look to control the game with a ball takes a lot longer than looking to control the game without the ball, your defensive shape and what you’re trying to do and implement.
“The basis of it is there for these players but it’s looking to see how we can do that. And this competition doesn’t give you that opportunity so much because you play and then you’ve got a rest day and then another game.
“The problem is you don’t get enough training with the boys to work on what was going on in the game the day before. That’s one the AFF need to look at to see that they can change that a little bit.
“But we’ll keep on using the analysis and trying to work that through with small groups and the team as a whole to try and get them better in terms of keeping the ball and looking to see how we can position ourselves and make better decisions in the way in which we build up as per what oppositions are trying to do tactically to us from a pressing point of view.”