Young Socceroos taught a tough but familiar lesson in the U/20 Asia Cup against Vietnam

As fans of Australian football, we tend to cheer for our own talented young players – particularly in games against opponents from the Asian Confederation, which the average Joe finds inadequate.

Former minnow Vietnam has spent big bucks overhauling its youth programs in recent years. Despite failing to qualify at senior level for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, they caused problems in the qualifiers and their U20 side showed their ability in beating Australia last night.

While many consider this to be the most talented young Socceroos team since the ’90s, Australian football has once again been taught a harsh lesson about the dangers of tournament football in Asia.

Vietnam were due to finish bottom in Group B but showed how far they’ve come in youth football with a courageous 1-0 win over the Green and Golds. The result means Australia are already at risk of failing to qualify and finishing bottom of the group, especially with tougher tasks against Iran and Qatar.

It was a chilly 4 degrees in Fergana and the pitch had the same problem for both groups of players but it was the theatrics of the Vietnamese players and very strict leadership that continued to amaze Australia even after being part of the Asian Confederation for 17 years.

At the slightest touch, the referee whistled to stop play – a sign for the Vietnamese players to milk more seconds from the fight by rolling around on the ground and taking their time getting up.

Panashe Madanha (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Several Australian players and coaches have been angered by this delaying tactic, but this type of theatrics has proven successful against Australian teams when playing in this part of the world for many years.

Apart from the plays, Vietnam was worth the 3 points.

The technical skills and abilities of the underappreciated Vietnamese starting XI were showcased to the full, with their players’ ball control being a particular highlight. And more importantly, what’s going wrong with youth development in Australia?

The Goldstars were happy that Australia had the lion’s share of possession for the full 90 minutes, knowing they could lie in wait and counterattack.

Striker Viet Quoc Nguyen scored the only goal of the game when he fired a shot from 20 yards that made goalkeeper Jack Warshawsky gasp. The most alarming aspect of the goal was the amount of time and space Nguyen was granted – Australia didn’t try to take him out until it was too late.

In the second half, Australia were lucky not to be two goals behind when Nhan Thanh Nguyen missed his shot, only to beat Warshawsky. Australia’s best chances came from Gabriel Popovich, who could have felt he could have done better by deflecting two separate headers on target.

Coach Trevor Morgan tried to change everything after the break with an attacking triple substitution – but his side could not fight against a very disciplined Vietnamese team.

One of the substitutes, Bernado, drew the ire of many fans on social media for his lackluster cameo appearance. The criticism was unfair, especially since the player has only just returned to training at his club after a five-month injury break.


Head coach Trevor Morgan has a lot to think about. (Photo by Alexandre Schneider – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Bernado replaced another former South Australian prodigy who showed how effective he can be when he actually has playing time. Raphael had to wait patiently to break into the A Leagues’ best attack at Melbourne City – he’s only played 11 games in 3 years.

He is an immensely talented player and with his contract expiring very soon it is time to part ways in search of regular playing time.

Coach Trevor Morgan needs to quickly regroup his squad with upcoming games against Asian youth heavyweights Iran and Qatar. It was a poor start to the tournament and not what Australian fans were hoping for after Socceroo’s successes of 2022. Young Socceroos taught a tough but familiar lesson in the U/20 Asia Cup against Vietnam

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