The Australian U23 Men’s National Team will need to secure at least a draw against Korea Republic in their third and final Group D match at the 2018 AFC U23 Championship on Wednesday if they are to advance to the Quarter Finals of the competition.
Ante Milicic’s men suffered a 1-0 defeat to Vietnam at the Kunshan Stadium in China on Sunday despite controlling a whopping 75 per cent of possession throughout the encounter in Jiangsu Province.
Vietnam scored the only goal of the game in the 72nd minute of the match when midfielder Nguyen Quang Hai’s low strike from the edge of the area took a wicked deflection off Australian defender Aleksandar Susnjar before nestling in Paul Izzo’s net.
As evidenced by the game’s overall possession statistic, and the fact that Milicic’s men made 650 successful passes to Vietnam’s 146, Australia enjoyed large periods on the ball against Hang-Seo Park’s side. However, Vietnam deployed a defensive formation with no less than five players at the back at any time, and managed to frustrate Australia’s attack by constantly minimising the space in which they had to operate.
Despite Vietnam’s defensive tactics, Australia did craft enough openings throughout the fixture to score. Early on FC Groningen midfielder Ajdin Hrustic looked the player most likely to find the back of the net. Hrustic forced Vietnam’s goalkeeper Bui Tien Dung into a sharp save from a set piece after 12 minutes, before whizzing an effort just wide of Dung’s right post ten minutes later.
In between Hrustic’s strikes Rosenborg BK left back Alexander Gersbach and on-loan Newcastle Jets midfielder Riley McGree created positive moments for the green and gold.
Playing on the counter, Vietnam created three good opportunities after the half hour mark. Good defending from Ruon Tongyik and later Susnjar denied Nguyen Cong Phuong, before Adelaide United custodian Izzo was called upon to make a splendid stop from Hai’s stunning strike from range.
After the interval Newcastle Jets attacker Joe Champness forced Dung into a save following Gersbach’s ball into the box.
Milicic made a double change just after the hour mark, bringing on attackers George Blackwood and Danny De Silva who both performed strongly in the team’s first match against Syria.
Just three minutes into his appearance Blackwood headed into the goal, however his effort was correctly ruled out for offside.
With just under 20 minutes remaining Vietnam scored. While Izzo initially made a great stop to deny defender Bui Tien Dung II, Australia subsequently failed to clear their lines. The ball eventually bobbled out to Hai, who struck his shot firmly, but was most certainly aided by the deflection off Susnjar.
With ten minutes remaining two Australian substitutes combined as Milislav Popovic crossed for Blackwood. The Reds attacker did well to send his header at goal but ultimately watched it crash against the crossbar.
Australia had two further chances to restore parity as the clock wound down, however Melbourne City midfielder Stefan Mauk and Central Coast Mariners attacker Trent Buhagiar both failed to make the most of good goal scoring opportunities.
Australia’s final Group D fixture against Korea Republic will be broadcast LIVE and EXCLUSIVE on FOX SPORTS from 10.30pm AEDT on Wednesday (17 January).
Australia’s results at the 2018 AFC U23 Championship will impact the team’s seeding for the 2020 AFC U23 Championship, which will double as the qualification tournament for the 2020 Summer Olympics to be held in Tokyo, Japan.
Vietnam U23 1 (Nguyen Quang Hai 72’)
Australia U23 0
Venue: Kunshan Stadium, China
Referee: Mohanad Qasim Eesee Sarray (Iraq)
Australia U23: 1. Paul IZZO (Gk), 3. Alexander GERSBACH, 5. Aleksandar SUSNJAR, 7. Trent BUHAGIAR, 8. Stefan MAUK (c), 10. Ajdin HRUSTIC (22. Daniel DE SILVA 62’), 14. Riley MCGREE, 15. Keanu BACCUS, 16. Joseph CHAMPNESS (13. Milislav POPOVIC 74’), 19. Deni JURIC (9. George BLACKWOOD 62’), 21. Ruon TONGYIK
Substitutes not used: 2. Nicholas COWBURN, 4. Jonathan ASPROPOTAMITIS, 6. Aiden O’NEILL, 12. Tom GLOVER (Gk), 17. Brandon WILSON, 18. Danijel NIZIC (Gk), 20. Thomas DENG, 23. Benjamin GARUCCIO
Yellow cards: Nil
Red cards: Nil
Korea Republic U23 v Australia U23
Wednesday 17 January 2018
Kunshan Stadium, Kunshan
Kick-off: 7.30pm (local); 10.30pm (AEDT)
Broadcast: Full match LIVE and EXCLUSIVE on FOX SPORTS 501