Berger: Young Socceroos at their best

FFA national technical director Han Berger says the Qantas Young Socceroos will reap the benefits of having their best players for the AFC U-19 Championships.

FFA national technical director Han Berger says the Qantas Young Socceroos will reap the benefits of having some of their best and brightest available for the AFC U-19 Championships in the UAE.

The Australia coaching team-s ability to get their best players, usually playing in Europe, released from club duties during non-FIFA windows has been one of the major issues to dog the selection of junior representative sides in recent seasons.

Bu, in what should be considered a big win for the coaching staff, Young Socceroos head coach Paul Okon has been able to select his strongest squad - including the likes of Mustafa Amini and Curtis Good - for the U-19 Championships, which also serve as an qualification route for the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup.

The change comes as a result of months of important ground work by Okon and his team, including Berger and Qantas Socceroos coach Holger Osieck, to work with European clubs on releasing their Australian players for the tournament.

“This is a specific problem for Australian teams,” Berger told

“We-re the only one in the AFC to have so many players overseas from such a young age. And all these tournaments and qualifiers are on non-FIFA days, which means the clubs do not have to release players if they don-t want to.

“In the recent past that has been a major disadvantage for us; for example, in the U-23s Olympic campaign, all our attacking players were overseas and we couldn-t get them. And in last year-s U-20 World Cup we had the same problem.

“We put a lot of effort in this time. Paul Okon visited all the players and their clubs, team manager Simon Roberts did a lot of work and Holger assisted with the release of Mustafa Amini from Dortmund, so amazingly for the first time ever we have all the players available that we wanted.”

The result, Berger said, will be evident on the pitch. Despite those recent disappointments for junior teams, Berger admits there is expectation that this Young Socceroos squad has the talent to progress to the semi-finals in the UAE, thereby qualifying for the U-20 World Cup in Turkey next year.

“We know how difficult and dangerous it is to make predictions but I have good feeling about this group of players and this generation.

“Our goal is to reach the semi-finals. This group has a lot of quality. You always need a bit of luck, you don-t know the strength of the opponents but my feeling is that we have a good chance with his group.”

Okon-s squad is also a balance of overseas and Australian-based players, which Berger admitted is pleasing but said he still believes young Australian players are being denied enough opportunities in the Hyundai A-League.

“I know how it works in professional clubs in Europe because I-ve been there and seen it. Many boys go too early and if you don-t play first-team football in an important period of your career between 18-21 it doesn-t help your development.

“On the other hand, people in Australia know my opinion, that we should create more positions for more Australian players as starts in the A-League.

"I understand the marketing importance of Del Piero and players like that but five visa spots is too much. Almost all the strikers and attacking midfielders in the a-league are overseas players and that doesn-t help us to develop the next generation.”