Qantas Joeys top Group C at AFC U-16 Championship

Qantas Joeys top Group C at AFC U-16 Championship in Uzbekistan

The Qantas Joeys have topped group C of the AFC U-16 Championship after recording a scoreless draw with Japan in Tashkent last night.

With both teams having already guaranteed a quarter-finals berth courtesy of wins against Timor Leste and Vietnam earlier in the week, the match against Japan would determine who would finish at the top of group C, with a draw enough for the Qantas Joeys to take the top spot due to a superior goal-difference.

Japan began the better of the teams and created a couple of half chances in the opening minutes putting the Qantas Joeys on the back foot early.

In the 8th minute, Qantas Joeys captain Connor Chapman received a yellow card after reckless tackle just outside his own penalty area. The resulting free kick was taken by Akino Hiroki but his was shot was effectively blocked by the Australian defence.

Japan seemed to have opened the scoring on the quarter-hour mark when Hiroki Sugajima beat Chapman on the edge of the box and slotted the ball past Qantas Joeys goal keeper Paul Izzo, but the referee, Lee Min Hu, adjudged him to be initially offside.

Japan continued to dominate possession for the remainder of the half, troubling the Qantas Joeys midfield and defence in the process.

After a few tactical changes at half time, the Qantas Joeys lifted their game in the second half with a few long range shots fired off which didn-t really trouble the Japanese goal keeper, Genki Yamada.

Japan also continued to create chances, their best coming in the 80th minute when Keishi Kusumi shot from 18 yards that Izzo tipped over the cross-bar.

The Qantas Joeys had a chance to snatch the win six minutes from time after Milos Degenek swung in a free kick from the left into the box, which was received by Brodie Paterson who turned and hit the ball with his left foot only to see his shot go just wide of the goal.

Qantas Joeys Head Coach Jan Versleijen was pleased to see his team eventually top the group under difficult circumstances.

“Today's game was always going to be a hard match as Japan also had two wins and we knew that they would be a tough team,” said Versleijen.

“We also had a few players on yellow cards and one player suspended after receiving a red card from the Vietnam match, so this gave other players the opportunity to play and show what qualities they have.

“That being said, we also wanted a good result from the match as it would determine if we topped the group or not.

“The first half we struggled a bit and they controlled the tempo of the game and through the midfield gave their forwards some chances on goal. “After half time we regained our composure and managed to get more play in the midfield and as the game progressed we were able to create a few chances towards the end of the match.

“The result was indicative of how close the game was.

“We have now finished top of the group and look forward to the quarter- final on Monday where we hope to qualify for next year-s FIFA U-17 World Cup.” concluded Versleijen.

In the other group C match Vietnam defeated Timor Leste 3-1, whilst in Group D Iraq finished at the top of the group even though they were defeated by the second placed United Arab Emirates 2-1.

The Qantas Joeys will now face the United Arab Emirates in the quarter-finals which will be played on Monday 1 November, with the winner progressing to the semi-finals ( Thursday 4 November) and also qualifying for the FIFA U17 World Cup 2011 which will be held Mexico (18 June - 10 July).

The final of the AFC U-16 Championship will be played on Sunday 7 November (kick-off 2:00pm local, 8.00pm AEDT).