As fans of Australian football, we have a tendency to hype up our own talented young players – especially in matches against opponents from the Asian confederation that the average joe believes to be inadequate.
Former minnow Vietnam have spent significant money in recent years overhauling their youth programs. Although not able to qualify at senior level for the 2022 Qatar World Cup, they caused issues in patches during qualifying matches and their Under 20 side showed just how capable they were, in beating Australia last night.
While many consider this to be the best young Socceroos team talent wise since the 90’s, Australian football was yet again taught a harsh lesson about the perils of tournament football in Asia.
Vietnam were expected to finish bottom of group B, but once again showed how far they have come in youth football, with a plucky 1-0 victory against the green and gold. The result means Australia is already in danger of not qualifying and finishing last in the group, especially with tougher tasks to come against Iran and Qatar.
It was a chilly 4 degrees in Fergana and the pitch possessed the same issue for both sets of players, yet it was the theatrics of the Vietnamese players and the very strict officiating that continued to see Australia bamboozled, even after being a part of the Asian Confederation for 17 years.
At the slightest of touches, the referee blew his whistle to stop play – this was a sign for the Vietnamese players to milk more seconds out of the contest by rolling around on the ground and take their time getting up.
Multiple Australian players and coaching staff were upset about this stalling tactic, yet these types of theatrics have proved successful against Australia teams when playing in this part of the world for many years.
Excluding the theatrics, Vietnam were well worth the 3 points.
The technical skills and ability of the much unheralded Vietnamese starting XI was on full display, with their players ball control a particular highlight. More importantly, with what is going wrong with youth development in Australia?
The gold stars were happy to allow Australia to have the lion’s share of possession over 90 minutes, knowing they could lay in wait and counter attack.
Striker Viet Quoc Nguyen scored the solitary goal of the match, rifling a shot from 20 meters that left goalkeeper Jack Warshawsky grasping for air. The most alarming aspect of the goal was the amount of time and space afforded to Nguyen – Australia did not attempt to close him down, until it was too late.
In the second half, Australia was lucky not be two goals down, when Nhan Thanh Nguyen dragged his shot wide, with just Warshawsky to beat. Australia’s best chances fell to Gabriel Popovich who may feel he could’ve done better in directing two separate headers on target.
Coach Trevor Morgan tried his best to change things with an attack-minded triple substitution after the break – but his side could not breach a very disciplined Vietnamese outfit.
One of the substitutes, Bernado, drew the ire of many fans on social media for his lacklustre cameo. The criticism was unfair, especially as the player has only just returned to training with his club side after being out injured for five months.
Bernado replaced another former South Australian prodigy, who showed how effective he can be when actually given game time. Raphael has had to wait patiently trying to break into the A Leagues’ best attack at Melbourne City – playing only 11 games in 3 years.
He is an immensely talented player and with a contract expiring very soon, the time is right to part ways in the search of regular playing time.
Coach Trevor Morgan will need to regroup his troops quickly, with upcoming matches against Asian youth heavyweights Iran & Qatar. It has been a poor start to the tournament and not what Aussie fans had hoped for after the Socceroo successes of 2022.