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Australia’s best under-17 soccer players will be looking lock in a place at the 2023 AFC U17 Asian Cup in Bahrain this weekend, however, it will not be easy.
Taking on China, Cambodia and the Northern Mariana Islands as part of Group G of the qualifiers, the Joeys are set to face three relatively unknown forces at Shepparton’s McEwen Reserve.
Coming off an intense two-week training camp, the Australians will be feeling confident they can qualify, however, in soccer anything can happen.
Speaking ahead of the qualifiers, Australia coach Brad Maloney said it was important to qualify for next year’s tournament.
“For me qualification provides more exposure, more international football and another tournament to look forward to in the Asian Cup, so of course that’s our aim,” Maloney said.
“At this age group the players have literally been starved of international football for the last three years, so it would be great to qualify through this tournament and have another one to prepare for and look forward to next year.”
Home ground advantage is sure to play a key role if Australia is to be successful in the tournament, with Maloney acknowledging it was good to be back playing on home soil.
“It’s a huge advantage to be the host,” he said.
“You don’t necessarily face the challenges of cultural differences, language barriers sometimes, adapting to different environments, so on and so forth.
“Having said that we haven’t had a long time together.
“But at the end of the day we’re prepared as best we could be and we’ll approach the tournament in that manner.”
Featuring in Australia’s squad is a host of young talent, with players from across the country named in the 23-man squad.
Captaining the green and gold outfit will be Central Coast Mariner Anthony Pavlesic, while Adealide United’s Nestory Irankunda ― who played in the club’s senior A-League Men’s team last season ― is sure to provide some electricity up front.
Other talents to look out for are Miguel Di Pizio, who made the move from Western Sydney Wanderers to Central Coast Mariners this year and Brisbane Roar player Lucas Herrington.
“I think we’ve got a fairly balanced squad, fairly even, and there’s a lot of competition for first 11 starting spots,” Maloney said.
Appointed to the role of Joeys head coach in August, Maloney’s Asian soccer experience is sure to hold him in good stead throughout each of the matches.
Previously spending time as head coach of Malaysia’s under-23 and under-20 men’s national teams and assistant coach of the senior men’s side, Maloney’s knowledge will be of utmost value to his young charges.
“At the end of the day I think it would be great for the community to come out and see what Australia has to offer,” the Joeys mentor said.
“It’s the best emerging talent in the country at this age group and I think over the next five days or so the community will be proud to see these players on the field.”
Kicking off their tournament against the Northern Mariana Islands at 7.30pm on Wednesday, the Joeys face off with Cambodia at 7.30pm on Friday and play China at 3pm on Sunday.
With all three games at family-friendly times and tickets free, people are encouraged to get down and support what is a once-in-a-generation event.
Gus Hoefsloot – Sydney
Anthony Pavlesic – Central Coast Mariners
Michael Vonja – Western United
Peter Antoniou – Melbourne City
Zachary De Jesus – Sydney United 58
Lucas Herrington – Brisbane Roar
Ryan Kalms – Melbourne City
Andriano Lebib – Perth Glory
Jacob McLachlan – Sydney
Andre Parkes – Central Coast Mariners
Jaylan Pearman – Perth Glory
Sotiri Phillis – Adelaide United
Xavier Smith – Crewe Alexandra
Miguel Di Pizio – Central Coast Mariners
Ben Dunbar – Central Coast Mariners
Tiago Quintal – Sydney
Corey Sutherland – Perth Glory
Fabian Talladira – Adelaide United
Campbell Dovison – Central Coast Mariners
Mitchell Glasson – Sydney
Ayman Gulasi – Macarthur
Max Hatley – Western Sydney Wanderers
Nestory Irankunda – Adelaide United
Daniel is a passionate sports fan and proud Tasmanian.
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