Qantas Next Young Socceroos have begun their ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) U19 Youth Championship with a 1-1 draw with Singapore last night in Ho Chi Minh City. Singapore made the better start to the game applying the early pressure, but the well organised Qantas Next Young Socceroos defence, marshalled by Dylan McGowan, held firm. As the game settled it was the Australians who then began to dictate proceedings.
The Qantas Next Young Socceroos created the first real chance of the game in the fifth minute when Josh McVey's shot from close range was parried away by Singaporean goalkeeper Neezam Abdul Razak.
Neezam was called into action four minutes later to block a shot from Cameron Edwards.
Singapore's best chance of the half was in the 12th minute through striker Khairul Nizam Kamal but Qantas Next Young Socceroos goal keeper Mark Birighitti comfortably saved the attempt.
The Qantas Next Young Socceroos took the lead in the 20th minute after a through ball from Daniel Bowles found Josh McVey who delivered an inch perfect cross for the unmarked Eli Babalj to head in from close range.
The Qantas Next Young Socceroos, now dominating the midfield with great interchanges of passes, continued to create a number of chances with the Singaporeans dangerous on the counter attack.
Babalj had another opportunity to extend their lead in the 42nd minute after some great play out wide by James Virgilli, but, with only the goalkeeper to beat, his shot was again parried away by Neezam.
The tempo of the game slowed considerably throughout the second half with both teams noticeably tiring in the hot and humid conditions and the heavy pitch which was due to the steady amount of rain that had fallen in the area over the past week.
The Qantas Next Young Socceroos paid the price for their missed chances from their impressive first half when in the 65th minute, against the run of play, an incisive pass from Syafiq Zainal was picked up by Khairul Nizam who blasted it past the onrushing Birighitti for the equaliser.
The Qantas Next Young Socceroos created many scoring opportunities in the closing 25 minutes, but could not find the back of the net.
After the opening match, Qantas Next Young Socceroos Head Coach Jan Versleijen was pleased with his team's first half performance, disappointed with the second, but overall happy with the experience gained.
"I was very pleased with the first half where we dominated midfield, created a lot of chances and scored a great goal," said Versleijen.
"In the second half we lost control of the midfield.
"This is the first game that this group have played together, and we also added a number of new players to the squad for the first time.
"This tournament is excellent preparation where we can work on our playing style which is new to most of the players and we can see which players are best suited to which position.
"What also is important is that the conditions here will be the same as those we will experience in our November qualifiers in Indonesia," concluded Versleijen.
In the other group A match, Thailand defeated Cambodia 3-0, whilst in group B Vietnam defeated Malaysia 2-0 and Myanmar was awarded the result after Timor Lest forfeited the match due to a late arrival.
The Qantas Next Young Socceroos next match of the tournament will be against Thailand on Thursday 6 August (Kick off 3:30pm local, 6:30pm AEST).
Later in the year, the Qantas Next Young Socceroos will compete at the AFC U19 Youth Championships Qualifier Tournament in Jakarta, with the top three nations advancing to the AFC U19 Youth Championships which will be held in 2010.