Joeys coach Trevor Morgan says Australia’s best young players need more international competition to continue their development.
The Joeys are currently in the UK on a three-match tour as they prepare for the Under-17 World Cup in Brazil in October. The Australian youth side will face England, Korea and Brazil in the next week as they gear up for the tournament next month.
Australia has struggled to qualify for junior World Cups and Olympics in the past decade, and questions have been asked about the country’s production line.
Morgan believes our youngsters need more matches against top-class opposition, and the funds to support that, to test themselves and continually improve.
“In terms of youth development, there’s still a lot of good things going on,” he told The World Game.
“The issue is the level of international experience. That’s why Australia didn’t want to be part of Oceania anymore, because we were comfortable winning Oceania and then we had to go and play Uruguay in a knockout playoff.
“That’s a decision we took for the Socceroos to qualify through Asia knowing it would be tough but we would get more high-level games, more challenge and a better chance of preparing in that way. Really for the youth it’s no different.
“The advantage that European teams have and South American teams have over the border or in a few hour’s flight is they have tough competition all the time. When we’re in a tournament or a camp environment they [the players] improve because the environment, their ability to respond to the environment is actually excellent.
“The point being is there is a big time between drinks, if that makes sense. Yes, for Australian football it’s [this Under-17 World Cup] important for these boys… they really want to put a smile on people’s faces, they want people to go there are Aussie kids who handle it toe to toe.
“There are Aussie kids who have some personal qualities that might give them the chance of becoming a professional footballer. So it’s very important… This group I have a lot of belief in, they’re fantastic kids and they’re brave.
“But I don’t want to put any extra pressure on them as they don’t have the advantage of 20 international matches in the last two years. They don’t have that.
“That’s something we’re still working towards that Australia really has to make happen for younger players is regular international competition. If you think about someone’s education, I’ll be honest with you, up until now if we didn’t qualify for this World Cup there would be no international experience for our players for 12 months, quite often.
“Out of the blue getting invited to a tournament. If your kid went to school and failed a maths exam, you don’t have the next year off maths. You do extra.
“People are asking youth development in Australia, but don’t worry there’s good kids and good coaches out there. Bottom line we need investment, and we need to make that investment long-term in their development by constantly having a game program for them.”
The Joeys will tackle England on Friday night (Saturday morning Australian time), before facing Korea on Sunday and Brazil on Tuesday.
Morgan believes these friendlies will sharpen his player’s minds against three top international sides.
"We’re playing one of the best teams in Europe, one of the best teams in Asia and one of the best teams in South America, he said.
“There will be differences in style, in tempo, in intensity. So a month and a bit out from the World Cup, three highly-skilled opponents, three different opponents which is what we’ll have at the World Cup.
“It ticks a lot of boxes for what the players need to really fine-tune and prepare.”
Morgan is confident this group of Joeys, which includes four overseas-based players in Diego Alonso from Albacete Balompie, Tristan Hammond from Sporting Lisbon, Caleb Watts from Southampton and Noah Botic from Hoffenheim, have bright futures ahead of them.
“I think in each line we have players who can become professional footballers, no problem,” he said.
“We have boys who can be A-League players or go on to play in Europe. I believe in this squad of 23 players over half of them have a good chance of having a professional career, a very good chance.”