AFC U-19 Championship preview: Young Socceroos on the hunt for FIFA U-20 World Cup qualification

Some of Asia’s future football stars will gather in Indonesia as the AFC U-19 Championship kicks off on Thursday.

And our Young Socceroos are out to show the world they mean business.

A place at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Poland next year is at stake for Ante Milicic and his talented 23-player cast in Indonesia.

Six of those 23-players are from the Wanderers Academy with Mathieu Cordier, Kosta Grozos, Tass Mourdoukoutas, Oliver Puflett, John Roberts and Tate Russell set to star in the Championship. 

It’s sure to be an exciting time for Australia’s brightest young talents – and here’s everything you need to know about the tournament!

Our history

The 2018 AFC U-19 Championship will be the 40th edition of the biennial tournament, and Japan enters as reigning champions.

Australia has established some strong pedigree despite only participating in six previous tournaments.

We reached the final in 2010 but finished runners-up to DPR Korea, and have gone out in the group stage for the past two editions. 

FIFA U-20 World Cup qualification 

That’s a trend the Young Socceroos will be desperate to overturn in order to qualify for the FIFA U-20 World Cup, where we’ve been absent since 2013.

In order to do so, Milicic’s side must reach the semi-finals of the 2018 AFC U-19 Championship.

But first, Australia must navigate a tricky Group C, which contains Korea Republic, Vietnam and Jordan, and reach the quarter finals.

Opponents

Twelve-time champions Korea Republic present the biggest obstacle to the Young Socceroos’ task of progressing.

With 23 top-three appearances, the nation is by far the competition’s most successful and should enter this year’s tournament with serious designs on claiming their 13th title.

Key to their chances will be FC Seoul marksman Cho Young-wook, who led the continent’s scoring charts with six goals in four matches in qualifying.

Vietnam are certainly not an opposition to discount either.  The Southeast Asian nation are currently riding a crest of a youth football wave that has yielded a first-ever FIFA U-20 World Cup appearance in 2017, an AFC U-23 Championship final and a place in the Asian Games final four all in a matter of two years.

Meanwhile, Jordan are making their seventh appearance at the tournament like Australia and boast solid credentials after returning to the AFC U-19 Championship stage for the first time in six years.

Young Socceroos to watch

Head coach Milicic has brought an excellent roster to Indonesia as he seeks to mastermind Australia’s return to the FIFA U-20 World Cup stage.

Key to those ambitions will be SC Heerenveen young gun and recent Caltex Socceroos call up John Iredale.

The teenage forward has impressed his new Dutch employers after joining the side from Sydney FC, so much so that he is currently teetering on the fringes of the first team. 

In total, he’s scored 18 goals in 26 appearances for the Heereveenen Under-19s team and a further one in five for the Under-21 side.

Iredale will be complemented by a bunch of Hyundai A-League marksmen in Apostolos Stamatelopoulos, Angus Thurgate and Moudi Najjar.

Pulling the strings behind that group will be the likes of former Melbourne Victory duo Christian Theoharous, who moved to Borussia Monchengladbach in May, and Sebastian Pasquali, who is currently impressing in the famed academy of Ajax. 

Western Sydney Wanderers starlet Kosta Grozos and Melbourne City man Ramy Najjarine combine grace and steel to great effect in the midfield, while two Hyundai A-League ready defenders in Nathaniel Atkinson and Walter Scott will prove tough men to beat in the challenge.

Finally, Australia are in safe hands between the posts, with Sydney FC’s Duro Dragicevic, Melbourne City’s James Delianov and Brisbane Roar’s Macklin Freke all vying for the number one jersey.

Fixtures

Korea Republic v Young Socceroos
Date: Friday, 19 October 2018
Venue: Patriot Candrabaga Stadium, Bekasi, Indonesia
Kick-off: 7pm (local); 10pm (AEDT)

Young Socceroos v Vietnam
Date: Monday, 22 October 2018
Venue: Patriot Candrabaga Stadium, Bekasi, Indonesia
Kick-off: 4pm (local); 7pm (AEDT)

Young Socceroos v Jordan
Date: Thursday, 25 October 2018
Venue: Pakandari Stadium, Cibinong, Indonesia
Kick-off: 7pm (local); 10pm (AEDT)