WATCH: Australia's AFC U17 Asian Cup campaign ends in defeat to Japan
The Subway Joeys' AFC U17 Asian Cup Thailand 2023™ has come to an end following a 3-1 Quarter Final defeat to Japan at the Pathum Thani Stadium on Monday night.
Trailing by two goals at the break, Nestory Irankunda scored after half time providing hopes of a comeback, though Japan responded soon after, restoring their two-goal buffer to book its place in the Semi-finals.
Brad Maloney made four changes to the starting line up which defeated Tajikistan, with one enforced. Mitchell Glasson missed out due to a yellow card suspension, while Nathan Barrie, Zac De Jesus, Eddie Ince, and Giovanni De Abreu returned to the XI.
Australia fell behind in the 10th minute after being unable to defend a long throw in which landed over both centre-backs and allowed Gaku Nawata to capitalise from close range.
Anthony Pavlesic made a smart stop to deny Shuto Nagano on 22 minutes, but it counted for little as a minute later Japan doubled its lead.
Following a swift counter, Yumeki Yoshinaga squared a pass across the face of goal, teeing up Yutaka Michiwaki who clinically side-footed his finish into the bottom corner.
The Aussies clawed back some of the possession and enjoyed passages of play around Japan's box, but they could not muster any threatening opportunities as they headed into the interval down 2-0.
Maloney turned to his bench at half-time, implementing a double substitution with Peter Antoniou and Nathan Amanatidis introduced in the hope of injecting a spark.
And the pair would prove impactful.
On 54 minutes, Antonio fired a shot at the second attempt from a short corner which was parried by Wataru Goto.
Australia's sustained pressure was finally rewarded just beyond the hour mark when two Adelaide United boys combined to reduce the deficit.
Amanatidis' flicked header from Daniel Bennie's aerial ball played through Irankunda, who displayed excellent pace before expertly finishing into the bottom corner for his third goal of the tournament.
However, after working arduously to get a goal back, the Subway Joeys fell further behind courtesy of a sensational attacking move.
Ryunosuke Sato collected the ball in midfield and arrowed an incisive through ball to substitute Rento Takaoka and kept his composure as the goalkeeper rushed out, shifting the ball onto his left foot to calmly score into an empty net.
Australia threw everything at the Samurai Blue in the final stages but their efforts were in vain.
Speaking in the post-match press conference after the match, Maloney said: "At the end of the day we were beaten by the better team on the day.
"I can't fault my players' work ethic and they gave everything that they had, but we realise that we're playing against a powerhouse of Asian football.
"A country which invests heavily in youth development, very experienced squad that we played against and I'm 100% proud of my players but at the end of the day we were beaten by a better side."
Japan 3 (Nawata 10', Michiwaki 23', Takaoka 74')
Australia 1 (Irankunda 62')
Date: Monday, 26 June 2023
Venue: Pathum Thani Stadium, Thailand
Australia Lineup: 1. Anthony Pavlesic (C), 5. Bailey O'Neil (20. Campbell Dovison 90+1'), 6. Andriano Lebib (11. Tiago Quintal 74'), 7. Daniel Bennie, 10. Miguel Di Pizio, 13. Zac De Jesus (2. Peter Antoniou 46'), 14. Giovanni De Abreu (22. Nathan Amanatidis 46'), 15. Nathan Barrie, 16. Eddie Ince, 17. Nestory Irankunda, 21. Fabian Talladira
Substitutes not used: 3. Aden Green, 4. Sotiri Phillis, 8. Corey Sutherland, 12. Daniel Graskoski, 18. Michael Vonja, 19. Richard Nkomo, 23. Jordan Hoey
Suspended: 9. Mitchell Glasson