Joeys' U17 World Cup campaign: What went wrong?

Following Nigeria’s triumph in Chile we look back at the Joeys' performances at the U17 World Cup. Did Australia exceed expectations or was it a failure?

Former Australia Under-17 coach, Les Scheinflug, believes that the Joeys propensity to attack caused the team to be “exposed” at the World Cup in Chile.

The Joeys played four games at the World Cup - a 4-1 loss to Germany, a 0-0 draw to semi-finalist Mexico and a 2-1 win against Argentina, which saw them scrape out of the group stages.

However, the Australians were dealt a tough draw in the round of 16 and were knocked out by eventual champions Nigeria in a 6-0 mauling.

Scheinflug, 77, is Australia’s most successful youth team coach. He took the Joeys to the 1999 World Cup final where the team lost to Brazil on penalties.

And even though Australia got out of the group of death and made it to the round of 16, the Australian Hall of Fame inaugural inductee was particularly critical of the way that the Joeys stuck to same tactical approach during the tournament.

“Tony Vidmar (Joeys coach) never changed his pattern. He wants to play 4-3-3 and he has to go forward and the opposition team are waiting for you,” he told FourFourTwo.

“Germany doesn’t have to wait for them but they exposed them with their skills with the wall passes and bang. Lucky they didn’t get 10 that day. And lucky when they played a draw against Mexico they didn’t go down 4-0 in the first half. But in the second half they looked well.

“You must know what your team can do well. You don’t go and play against Germany with the idea of putting our style towards them and say there is nothing else I care for - then you must take the consequences.

“Even if you are the best team in the world there are times when you defend and times when you attack”

Vidmar said that the main problem in the loss against Germany was when the Joeys went from attack to defence, but that was arrested for the Mexico game.

“The boys were generally disappointed with our transitioning when we lost the ball which they acknowledged,” he said.

“But they also acknowledged that in possession and creating chances we can match it with the best but also need to take our chances. They knew if we could be more consistent in the performance the result will happen.

“If we look at the last four teams in the competition Mali, Nigeria, Mexico & Belgium. Our performance against two of the teams was a good one but still there are areas of improvement required. Mexico we could match it with them - that was a performance that was consistent throughout the 90 minutes.”

Nigeria went on to win the World Cup beating Mali 2-0 in the decider. Vidmar explained that the 6-0 result against the Africans in the round of 16 was due to the poor pressing from the Australian attacking players onto the Nigerian defence.

“Against Nigeria we allowed them to play out which is to their advantage as they can get the ball quicker to their attackers as they are faster and bigger than us,” he said.

“So we need to be smarter in our decisions without the ball, but also we must do things quicker on the ball so we don’t get into a battle with them because they will win those battles.

“These two countries (Nigeria and Mexico) between them have won the under 17 World Cup six times so they are renowned for having teams going there to win the tournament.”

Scheinflug said that the Joeys should have focused on Nigerian attacker Victor Osimehn, who scored a hat trick against the Aussies and finished the tournament as the golden boot winner with an impressive 10 goals.

“Don’t you think that the number nine who made a mickey of our defence has got speed and has got power?” he said.

“Don’t you think that the coaches should make the defenders aware of him? Not one person should be there, it should be the next defender near there as soon as the ball is played. There should be two there straight away. It’s as simple as that.”

Peter de Roo, Technical Director of FFA Centre of Excellence said that the Joeys did well after that initial first loss and he was happy with how the Joeys played at the tournament.

“Our message to the boys has always been that if we want to become better at what we do and how we play, we need to keep on doing what we do and improve from that every single time,” he said.

“The fact that after the disappointing result versus Germany the players bounced back like they did without any fear versus the two top teams that came to Chile to win the World Cup and made it out of this extremely tough group was definitely something to be proud off.”