Young Socceroos boss Ante Milicic praised his side’s “strong Australian mentality” after they battled back to salvage a 1-1 draw in their AFC U-19 Championship opener against Korea Republic.
Melbourne City’s Ramy Najjarine came off the bench to score a stunning 89th-minute equaliser, cancelling out Jeon Se-jin’s 52nd-minute opener, to leave the two sides tied in second spot in Group C.
The fightback gives the Young Socceroos momentum heading into Monday’s meeting with Vietnam, who fell to a late 2-1 defeat at the hands of Jordan earlier in the day.
Milicic said: “I’m extremely proud of the playing group, the boys who started and the ones who came on and made an impact, I think everyone gave their maximum.
“When we did fall behind we showed our character, players still wanted the ball, they believed in getting a result from the game and I’m thrilled for the boys that we’ve got off the mark against what is going to be a very difficult opponent.
“It’s a great start for us and it will give us a lot of momentum going into our next game.
“If you look at the reaction from our team, we scored late just like Jordan did in the early game, and these are young boys we must remember so confidence is a big thing for them and there’s not a lot of time to adjust to the atmosphere.
“The boys have worked extremely hard and now it is all about recovery and a quick preparation for Vietnam, which we know is going to be a strong game, but definitely our strong Australian mentality was evident.”
Milicic also hailed the quality of football on display, despite having limited time to work with his squad and facing challenging playing conditions in Indonesia.
“With the limited preparation that we’ve had, I thought we were very organised, defended well and we had a few chances on the break," he added.
“It was a good Australian performance and I thought we deserved the point that we got from the game.
“It was an interesting match and both teams at times showed quality, played at extremely high tempo in difficult conditions, not only the heat and humidity but I thought the grass was quite long as well and it was difficult for the more technical players and more individual players.”
Young Socceroos remaining Group C fixtures:
Young Socceroos v Vietnam
Date: Monday, 22 October 2018
Venue: Patriot Chandrabhaga Stadium, Bekasi, Indonesia
Kick-off: 4pm (local); 8pm (AEDT)
Young Socceroos v Jordan
Date: Thursday, 25 October 2018
Venue: Pakansari Stadium, Cibinong, Indonesia
Kick-off: 7pm (local); 11pm (AEDT)