Qantas Young Socceroos defeated by last gasp goal

Qantas Young Socceroos defeated by DPR Korea in Final of AFC U-19 Championship

The Qantas Young Socceroos have been defeated 2-3 by DPR Korea in the final of the AFC U-19 Championship at the Zibo Sports Center Stadium in Zibo, China.

A hat-trick to Korean striker Jong Il-gwan, with his final goal coming in the last minute of regulation time, was the deciding factor in a match that also saw Kerem Bulut score two goals for the Qantas Young Socceroos to give him a total of seven goals and the Golden Boot Award for the tournament.

On a testing wet and heavy pitch, both teams took a little time to establish a tempo and adjust to the difficult conditions.

DPR Korea took the lead in the 11th minute courtesy of a solo effort by Jong Il-gwan who beat two defenders on his run into the box then slip a well placed shot past Qantas Young Socceroos goal keeper Mark Birighitti who was unable to make a save when diving to his left.

The Qantas Young Socceroos equalised in the 25th minute after Marc Warren combined with Tommy Oar on the left. Oar was then able to provide a fantastic cross from near the sideline that found Kerem Bulut who headed in from 12 yards out.

Oar and Bulut combined again to give the Qantas Young Socceroos second goal five minutes later. Oar picked up the ball 30 metres from goal and made a run into the box shrugging off three defenders in the process. Once inside the box, Oar-s left-footed shot was blocked by the DPR Korea goalkeeper Jin Song but fell in the path of Bulut who was backing up his team-mate. Bulut made no mistake passing the ball calmly into an empty goal.

DPR Korea equalised just before halftime after a lapse in concentration by the Qantas Young Socceroos allowed Jong Il-gwan to receive a ball on the left just outside the Australian penalty box. The North Korean striker dribbled into the box and unleashed a shot that Dylan McGowan tried to block, but in the process deflected it into the goal giving the committed Birighitti no chance of saving.

Mathew Leckie had a chance to restore the Qantas Young Socceroos lead during added time at the end of the first half with a free kick from just outside the box in the middle of the park. Leckie-s stinging shot to Jin Song-s left forced the goalkeeper to make an acrobatic diving save to deny the attempt.

The Qantas Young Socceroos applied the pressure early in the second half with Mathew Leckie having a great opportunity on the edge of the box but hit his shot straight at Jin Song.

In the 68th minute Mustafa Amini found himself unmarked in the box, on the right and on the end of a Tommy Oar pass. Amini-s resulting shot narrowly missed the target, ultimately hitting the side netting.

Arguably the Qantas Young Socceroos best chance came in the 75th minute when Oar again crossed in for Kerem Bulut 12 yards out. Unfortunately on this occasion, Bulut-s header didn-t find the target, with the ball flying narrowly wide of the right-hand post.

DPR Korea came back late in the game and with five minutes to go put a long ball through to Hyok Chol which required Birighitti to courageously come off his line to smother the ball, diffusing a dangerous situation and putting his body on the line at the same time.

Just as the match seemed headed for extra-time, the winner came in the 89th minute when DPR Korea played a long ball into the box from a free kick just over half-way. Birighitti again came off his line to claim the cross, but fumbled the attempt dropping the ball at the feet of Jong Il-gwan who chipped into goal through the scrambling Qantas Young Socceroos defence to seal the win and the AFC U-19 Championship.

Although obviously very disappointed with the loss, Qantas Young Socceroos Head Coach Jan Versleijen, praised his team-s performance throughout the tournament and was very proud of their efforts.

“We tried to play good football tonight and throughout the tournament. Today we saw some good examples of that especially in midfield.

“I think we were unlucky tonight and DPR Korea was the luckier of the two teams.

“We were a little sloppy to concede the first two goals and there was an element of luck in the third goal that we let in.

“I was very happy with the way that we came back from a goal down and took the lead.

“But this is a good learning experience for the players as we now look towards our next challenge at the FIFA U-20 World Cup next year.

“If you look at where we have come from, I am very pleased with the overall performance of the players and the progress that they have made throughout the campaign. In 2006 we made the quarter-finals but didn-t qualify for the World Cup. In 2008, we made the semi-finals and qualified for the World Cup. This year we made the final and qualified for the World Cup. These results indicate the sort of progress that we are making at youth international level.

“These competitive international tournaments are extremely important for the development of our talented players. To play six games in two weeks against various styles and oppositions is a fantastic opportunity for any player.

“It is now up to the players to play regularly with their clubs and be in the best form leading into the World Cup which is only nine months away,” concluded Versleijen.

The Qantas Young Socceroos will now return to their respective clubs and begin their preparations for the 2011 FIFA U-20 World Cup which will be played in Colombia next July/August.

DPR Korea 3 (Jong Il-gwan 11-/43-/89-) Qantas Young Socceroos 2 (Kerem Bulut 25-/30-)

Zibo Sports Center Stadium, Zibo, China PR Referee: Tan Hai (China PR) Assistant Referees: Han Wei (China PR) & Su Jige (China PR) Fourth Official: Mohsen Torky (IR Iran)

Qantas Young Socceroos line-up: Mark Birighitti (gk), Dylan McGowan, Sam Gallagher, Dan Bowles, Ben Kantarovski (c), Terry Antonis (Rhyan Grant 78-), Mustafa Amini, Tom Oar, Mathew Leckie, Kerem Bulut (Matthew Fletcher 81-), Marc Warren.

Substitutes Not Used: Kofi Danning, Nikola Stanojevic, Steven Lustica, Dimitrios Petratos, Brendan Hamill, Jason Davidson, Eli Babalj, Ryan Edwards, Matthew Acton (gk), Alex Pearson (gk).