Brad Maloney praises team's resilience as Joeys reach knockout stage
Australia U-17 head coach Brad Maloney praised his team's determination following a hard-fought victory over Tajikistan at the AFC U17 Asian Cup Thailand 2023™.
The 2-0 win by the Subway Joeys, courtesy of second half goals from Daniel Bennie and Nathan Amanatidis, helped book a place in the Quarter Finals against the Group D winners on Monday, 8pm AEST.
While requiring just a point to progress to the Quarter Finals, Australia began the contest strongly before quickly relinquishing control and had to survive a wave of Tajikistan chances in hot and humid conditions.
But an improved performance after the break ensured the Aussies' safe passage to the knockout phase.
"It was a tough game, as we expected from the opposition," Maloney said in the post-match press conference.
"They never gave up and really tested us as well, they had their fair share of chances as well, of course, we're delighted to get the result and progress to the next phase.
"... We said from day one, it was one of the targets to qualify for the (FIFA U17) World Cup, so definitely, that's one of our targets and and then of course, we would like to win the whole tournament.
"But at the moment, our focus will be on the quarter final and I think every team at this tournament is aiming for that.
"So for us, it's great to be there, we're just going to have to regroup, there's some tired legs out there, so we have to assess the players and plan for the next match."
Australia's never say die attitude and ability to respond through moments of difficulty was on display again and Maloney was pleased with the character shown by his squad.
He said knowing he can rely on every player in the team to do a job is also extremely pleasing.
"I think that typifies young Aussie kids," he claimed.
"They have that tenacity and that resilience, which is great to see they've displayed that in every match.
"And for me, that's fantastic, during this group phase we've used I think, 20 players out of 23. So for me, I've said all along, it's going to take everybody to contribute something to this campaign and that's what the boys have done.
"When when we've rotated players, then the ones that have come in have really done their jobs well, so it's a pleasant headache for me to have when it comes to selection time."
For the second straight match, forward Amanatidis came off the bench and scored a stoppage-time sealer.
The boss praised his impact and the quality he provides the team through his pace, dynamism and mentality.
"He's a good player, I can say he was probably a late addition to this squad," Maloney continued.
"He wasn't involved in the qualifying matches last year (in Shepparton).
"So it's great to have someone of his ability in the squad and you know, he's come on and as I say, like every player he's contributed to the team and whether it's scoring goals or not, he's contributing.
"For me it's great to see that he's hungry, and has that desire to get the result."
Australia will the need to reach the semi-finals to qualify for the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2023™, currently scheduled to run 10 November – 2 December 2023, with the host country to be confirmed by FIFA following Peru’s withdrawal as tournament host.