Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Young Socceroos provide glimpse into the future

Back in September I wrote about the bright future for Australian Football.

This was on the back of performances by Spiranovic, Holman and Federici against Poland. It’s not a view that everyone shared, but that is what is great about Football – everyone has their own opinion.

And after seeing the recent performances of the Young Socceroos at the AFC U19 Championships in China I have to revise my earlier prediction. The future isn’t bright. It’s positively glowing.

It might seem a bit of an overreaction, but I think anyone who has seen their performances in recent times will tell you the same thing – this group has some special young talents.

We already know some of them thanks to their exploits in the A-League, namely Tommy Oar and Matthew Leckie. Both are pegged as the “next big thing” in Australian Football. Their exploits in China have done nothing to dampen those expectations. If anything, they’ve only enhanced them.

A player who doesn’t get the same attention, but who has a future just as bright is captain Ben Kantarovski. Kantarovski has been a regular member of the Newcastle Jets team since he was 16 years of age. Given he has been around for a few years it’s hard to believe that he is still only 18.

He was also a member of Australia’s squad at the 2009 FIFA U20 World Cup. He has experience beyond his years. Earlier this year he turned down an offer to join Bayern Munich’s youth system. His recent performances will only increase the level of interest in the Novacastrian.

Mustafa Amini, who with his red afro will become a cult hero before too long, and Czech Republic-based Kerem Bulut have also impressed during the tournament.

It appears that new national team coach Holger Osieck will wait until after January’s Asian Cup to regenerate the ageing Socceroos squad. But he could do a lot worse than to start giving opportunities to these younger guys.

I’m not advocating giving them all starting berths for the next friendly against Egypt, but if we want to ensure that we have a generation of players coming through ready to step into the national team we need to start including them in the set-up.

Include these players in the squads and get them involved in the environment of the national team. They already have some experience of it at junior level, and Oar has the experience of being in the extended squad for the recent World Cup in South Africa.

With the Socceroos squad not getting any younger, there is going to be a large turnover in personnel for Brazil in 2014. By then Kantarovski will be 22, Oar will be 22, Leckie will be 23, Bulut will be 22 and Amini will be 21.

Whilst that is still very young, Germany showed this year just what can be achieved with a youthful side full of enthusiasm.

I’d wager that a number of this current crop will make it and appear at Brazil 2014 and given their age these youngsters will form the nucleus of the national team for the best part of the next decade, even longer.

By 2022 most of them will only be just turning 30…dare we dream that these youngsters be the players we watch and idolise when the FIFA World Cup is held on Australian soil?

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