Manager: Trevor Morgan
Last game: Australia 2-1 Vietnam (22 September 2019)
Heavyweights of Group C and one of the favourites for the title, the Joeys boast of a promising squad led by a manager who has coached the U16 for about two years now. Trevor Morgan’s boys have the potential, momentum and the coaching to top the group.
Australia have featured in the AFC U16 Championship in every edition since 2008 but are yet to get their hands on the grand prize. However, their record in the competition is encouraging, given they made the semi-finals three out of six times and were unable to qualify from the group stages just once (India, 2016).
The Joeys made the semi-finals for the first time in 2010 when they eased past the likes of Vietnam and Timor-Leste in the group stages before edging the UAE 3-2 in the quarterfinals. A 2-1 defeat at the hands of hosts Uzbekistan in the semis brought an end to their promising campaign.
Australia’s best result in the competition arrived in Thailand in 2014. They made it three out of three in the group stage and proceeded to beat Malaysia 2-1 in the first knockout round. Eventual champions DPR Korea eliminated them through a penalty shoot-out in the semi-final. The Joeys were placed third in the tournament by virtue of accumulating more points. They also conceded the fewest number of goals (4) in the tournament among the teams that made it out of the group.
Australia’s 2018 (Malaysia) U16 Championship was rather underwhelming to their standards. They finished as runners-up in the group after a 3-0 defeat to South Korea. This was followed by a narrow win over Indonesia in the quarterfinals and a comprehensive 3-1 defeat against Japan in the semis.
The Joeys have also been among regular participants in the FIFA U-17 World Cup. They qualified for the final round thrice in the last decade and made it to the last-16 on each of these occasions. However, they have not made it past the quarterfinals since 2001.
LESSONS FROM THE PAST
India and Australia have never faced each other in the AFC U16 Championship. India comes under the umbrella of West Asian nations while Australia belongs to the East Asian category. This eliminated the possibility of the two sides facing in the qualifiers too.
The Joeys breezed through their qualifier games, topping the group with 12 points from their four games. They began their campaign with a 2-1 win over Mongolia before they smashed Macau 3-0 and edged Timor-Leste 1-0. A 2-1 win over Vietnam in a must-win final qualifier game ensured a successful outing.
The defence conceded just two goals in the tournament, displaying great discipline at the back while ensuring a good supply of goals upfront. The Coronavirus pandemic proved to be a roadblock to Australia's preparations ahead of the U16 Championship but they could return to training by August at the earliest. A friendly against New Zealand is on the cards, should the situation cool down.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Trevor Morgan is a pragmatic coach who has coached the side for two years. He has worked closely with the senior team boss Graham Arnold who is known for his ability to spot and nurture talent. Given the senior team operates in a 4-2-3-1 formation, it would not be a surprise if Morgan opts the same with the Joeys.
India can expect an Australian side that is solid at the back, is filled with some great individual talent and has a knack of getting the result. This could prove to be a tough test for India in the group stages of the 2020 AFC U16 Championship.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Joshua Rawlins of Perth Glory who captained the side during the qualifiers is a defensive mainstay.
Matthew Scarcella, who plays in midfield for Western Sydney Wanderers is also a crucial element of the Joeys squad.
Morgan could have Bernardo Oliviera be the focal point of Australia’s attack. The promising attacker recently joined Melbourne City FC’s impressive youth set-up to hone his skills and boasts of the ability to torment defences in the tournament.