One on one: Young Socceroos boss Gary van Egmond’s goals for AFF U-18 Championship

Tonight (Wednesday) marks the start of a couple of big weeks for the Young Socceroos as they compete at the 2019 AFF U-18 Championship in Vietnam.

It’s an important tournament for Gary van Egmond’s side as they build up towards qualification for the FIFA U20 World Cup in 2021.

SQUAD NAMED: van Egmond finalises his 23 players for the 2019 U-18 AFF Championship

We caught up with Young Socceroos boss van Egmond ahead of his team’s first clash against Cambodia tonight, where a minimum of five matches at the 2019 AFF U-18 Championship in Vietnam awaits.

Main Image Photo Credit: Louise Taffa (@Louise_Taffa on Twitter, @taffamedia_ on Instagram)

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Hi Gary, thanks so much for speaking to How are the boys enjoying Ho Chi Minh City?

Gary van Egmond (GvE) - It’s a really exciting time. It’s very good for them to experience… they’re all looking at all the different things that occur and as you could imagine, things are done differently here from the perspective of traffic, food, and culture. It’s a great learning experience for them and one that they’ll be able to look back on and grow from which is terrific.

Before jetting off to Vietnam you spent a week training at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra. What did you like from the group and what sort of progress did you make?

GvE - It’s a new cohort, it’s a new cycle for this age group, so we want to have a look and see as many players as possible. With it being a new cycle, you have to try-see and bring as many players as you can into camp. So initially, the first process was to communicate with A-League clubs and talk to them about the players, as the A-League clubs make up a lot of the boys as far as the squad was concerned. From there, it was to look at that first year and take a squad of 23 away, but also with the ones who didn’t make it, it was important to keep some ongoing communication there. When they’re young it can change very, very quickly in regard to the way they’re playing. So, we have to be very mindful of that, to keep a big list of possible squads for tournaments.

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What is the most important part of both the training camp and now the 2019 AFF U-18 Championship?

GvE - The first thing for me is the culture. That’s the key area for me, and really, I want the players to take ownership of the football team, both in the way we play, our behaviours and our identity. It’s important that the players have a huge input on that - for the staff to lead them into that area - but for the players to ultimately create it. That’s the first part, the other part is from the perspective of how we play and how we talk about the ball. We just need to keep on working with them on those principles, and habits as far as training sessions are concerned, and how you bring them to life into game situations.

Young Socceroos
Photo Credit: Louise Taffa

This tournament must then be a really fantastic opportunity for these players to take ownership of the team and foster the culture you’re talking about…

GvE - It’s all about behaviour – you can talk about values but realistically the most important thing is the behaviour of that value, and how you see that in your team. The team elects the captain and the leadership group who best represent those behaviours and you go from there. Everything that you need within the team environment reverts back to that, whether you’re on or off the field.

That’s how that works, and they run it. The boys run it. It’s very important for them to take that ownership and create a bit more of a commitment culture around this football team.

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Looking toward the FIFA U20 World Cup in 2021, how important is it that the Young Socceroos not only build this culture, but also get results on the pitch?

GvE - You don’t really get the success on the field if you don’t adhere to a culture as far as your football team is concerned. For us, the opportunity to play in tournaments and to be in camp with this group is so vital and so important that you’re able to let them have more and more experience of international football. Travelling overseas, this tournament is fantastic that we can get five games and potentially two, in regards to finals. To have that amount of games in a very short amount of time and good opposition for this group, it’s a really, really important step of their journey toward the World Cup.

What are some of the challenges?

GvE - It’s about what’s happening with the players and what important, obviously with hydration and ensuring there’s food that the boys can eat. Some boys have allergies which we have to cater for. The FFA have been fantastic with the one-to-five percenters, in ensuring that we get enough staff to try and cater for everything. We have a chef here to ensure the food is right, we’ve got two physiotherapists to make sure we can do as much as we can to keep the boys full fit and on the park. We’ve got our coaching staff, a video analyst, it’s just terrific that these boys have the opportunity to work in this environment. I’m sure they work in these environments in A-League clubs now as well, but to see how we can really provide a great opportunity for these players and go on is fantastic.

What are some of your key targets for the tournament? What sort of style can we expect the Young Socceroos to play?

We’ll be aggressive when we’re out of possession and look to be very organised in the way we try to win the ball back. Then again, we’ll keep on enforcing the philosophy of the way we play from building out from the back, playing between the lines into the midfield areas. And really, in that front third, I want to give them a lot more freedom. I think we need to encourage players to play out of position a lot more and for them to really express themselves in that front third. They’re the type of players we’re looking for and the pathway in Australian football needs to keep on looking to create.

  • You can stream the entire tournament – hosted by the Vietnam Football Federation – by CLICKING HERE when the Young Socceroos match is scheduled to kick-off.

Upcoming Matches – Young Socceroos | 2019 AFF U-18 Championship | Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Cambodia v Australia
Date: Wednesday, 7 August 2019
Location: Thong Nhat, Vietnam 
Kick-off: 4.30pm (local); 7.30pm (AEST) 

Vietnam v Australia
Date: Friday, 9 August 2019
Location: Thong Nhat, Vietnam 
Kick-off: 7.30pm (local); 10.30pm (AEST) 

Australia v Thailand
Date: Sunday, 11 August 2019
Location: Binh Duong, Vietnam 
Kick-off: 4.30pm (local); 7.30pm (AEST) 

Australia v Malaysia
Date: Tuesday, 13 August 2019
Location: Thanh Long, Vietnam 
Kick-off: 3.30pm (local); 6.30pm (AEST) 

Singapore v Australia
Date: Thursday, 15 August 2019
Location: Thong Nhat, Vietnam 
Kick-off: 4.30pm (local); 7.30pm (AEST)

  • You can stream the entire tournament – hosted by the Vietnam Football Federation – by CLICKING HERE when the Young Socceroos match is scheduled to kick-off.