FFA development chief denies Aussie youth falling behind

The FFA Centre of Excellence Technical Director, Peter de Roo, has hit back at critics who say the curriculum is not delivering the results at youth level that many expected.

Most of the Joeys squad that beat Vietnam on Sunday night to qualify for next year’s AFC U16 championships is made up of players from the centre.

But qualifying for the World Cup via next year’s AFC U16 tournament is not a given for Australia.

Coach Tony Vidmar after the Joeys qualified for AFC U16 Championships

Asian football is improving all the time as seen by the Joeys 3-2 loss to Thailand last month in the Semi Finals of the U16 AFF tournament in Cambodia.

De Roo disagrees the result proves Australia is falling behind in its youth development.

“The result in this particular game is not reflective of that at all,” De Roo said.

“It only showed us as staff something that we are very much aware of, and that is, that in the way we play, we are most vulnerable in transition when we lose the ball.

“(This is) especially against teams that set up like Thailand, sitting deep in their half,  back four protected by a zonal 4/5 midfield and staying disciplined in that organisation and just gambling on the counter attack.

“That is exactly why we went to a tournament like this, because our players need to experience this and learn from it.

Now they know why we want immediate pressure on the ball when we lose it. Now they really know what we mean when we talk about ‘rest defence’. And now they will become better in their decision-making when we have possession, instead of forcing things through the middle all the time. 

“If there are people who want to make assumptions on the way Australia is going at youth level in Asia based on a single result in an U16 friendly competition, that’s fine by me. We saw this game as a great learning moment moving forward, not more and not less.”

The Joeys starting XI for their clash with Thailand

De Roo added that the main indication of progress at youth football is not always about the outcome.

“I guess it depends on what their definition of results in relation to youth development is,” he said.

“If their definition is pure results in the sense of winning things at international youth level then they are right, we haven’t won a World Cup in youth football yet.

“The question now is – what is the right definition to use to make a call on how our youth development is going? For me it is simple. If we keep on doing what we are doing, and keep on improving on what we are doing, the results will ultimately take care of themselves.

“The result itself should never be the focus at youth level. The focus should always be to improve on the performance in the way we want to play and to improve individual players and develop them into players that can win at senior (international) level. That is, for us, the only way that will lead to long-term success instead of short-term success.”

We can see there has been massive progress over the last years - De Roo

The Joeys will also be competing on another front when they play at the FIFA U17 World Cup in Chile next month. De Roo believes that the Joeys' performance in Chile will be a fair reflection where the FFA curriculum is at the moment.

“We can see that there has been massive progress over the last years,” he said.

“The football being played at National Championships and NTC challenges is much better than, let’s say, five or six years ago, and also the level of the players when they come to us in our program is getting better every year.

“At the same time we need to make sure that we keep on evaluating and looking at what we can do better. A curriculum should be a living document although the general principles don’t change.

“You can have the best curriculum in the world but ultimately it always comes down to the quality of the people who deliver it.”

(Main Photo - The Joeys before their 1-1 draw wth the USA earlier this month. All photos by footballaustralia.com.au)

Con Stamocostas is an Australian football writer. Click here to see more of his work and check out the latest episode of his A-League Snobcast with co-host Rob Toddler.