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Joeys crash and burn in Jakarta

Much was expected of the Joeys at the AFF U16 Youth Championship taking place in Indonesia .

Being two-time winners and grouped with Myanmar, Cambodia and Malaysia, the Joeys looked destined to go deep into the tournament.

However, the side has spectacularly crashed and burned after losing 3-2 to Myanmar and 4-2 to Cambodia.

Angry masses on social media have been quick to vent their anger against Football Australia for their lack of perceived support for this tournament. However, Asian sides are catching up fast and just turning up isn’t enough for Australia to progress.

When the final squad was announced, I made reference to the real possibility of Australia not getting out of this group.

Now, fingers are being pointed in every direction possible for this failure.

Preparation for all of Australia’s underage sides has been minimal in the past 18 months due to COVID.

The Joeys have only taken part in two training camps and barely played in any friendlies in this time period, while their counterparts in Asia have taken part in several and developed a real bond.

A lot of this Aussie squad only met for the first time earlier this season – how could any form of comradery have been built in such a short space of time?

The squad is laden with talent but was it the best squad Australia could have chosen?

There was a lack of South Australian players in the training camps and none chosen for this tournament – a puzzling decision, given many people regard this state as the best at developing young players.

Heading into this tournament without a confirmed head coach was appalling, as were the chaotic airport scenes that followed the interim coach not being allowed to board a plane due to coronavirus.

Football Australia has however acted unusually fast and named a new head coach, former NSL Star and Socceroo Brad Maloney, fresh off a stint as the coach of Malaysia’s under 23s.

Maloney will be joined by Michael Cooper, who will take on the assistant’s role after working as technical director at Football South Australia.

Maloney will need to be given the support required from Football Australia, otherwise the Joeys might not make it to the FIFA U17 World – with qualification beginning in October.

The Joeys need the level of support that the Japanese provide to their underage side – hundreds of hours more training, dozens more friendlies, and more training camps at a bare minimum.

If Football Australia aren’t prepared to empty their pockets for the next generation, then they will need to get used to losses against ‘minnows’ – who they were regularly destroying a few short years ago.

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