Qatar defeat Young Socceroos in New Zealand

Qatar's preparation for the FIFA U-20 World Cup in New Zealand received a boost after they downed the Young Socceroos 4-1 in Auckland on Thursday. Australia's goal was scored by Western Sydney Wanderers star Alusine Fofanah.

First half goals for Akram Afif and Jassim Al Gabali and a brace by Muaz Al Abdien cancelled out a fine second half strike by Western Sydney's Fofanah to hand the Qatari's a deserved win. 

Australia U-20 coach Paul Okon said he was satisfied with the performance of his team against a side he believes could make a big impact at the FIFA U-20 World Cup. 

"Qatar is clinical we saw that immediately and knew they would wait for us to make mistakes and they punished us. Tonight was definitely a learning curve for us.

"But it was a great opportunity for our youngsters to be exposed to more games like this," he said.

Okon made a handful of changes from the side that downed New Zealand 3-2 at North Harbour Stadium on Sunday but insisted the reconfiguration in no way meant a change in game plan or its execution.

"The approach from us never changes we wanted to be proactive and for our players to have responsibility and be brave enough to play with that responsibility.

"Unfortunately tonight on a couple of occasions any sort mistake was punished or turned into an opportunity for Qatar. We knew that was their playing style but we weren't going to shy away from that and ask the players to do something different," he said.

With New Zealand turning in a 2-1 win over Panama in the day's earlier match, Okon believes the Darren Bazeley-coached team could push for a place in the Round of 16 in a section that includes Ukraine, USA and Myanmar.

"I haven't seen enough of New Zealand to be too sure but I think they still have some players to come into their squad to strengthen it.

"They may not have a squad that's super strong right now but they have a good opportunity to get out of their group," he said.

By contrast, Okon is convinced Qatar can turn heads when the FIFA U-20 World Cup kicks off on May 30.

"Qatar can go a long way in the tournament. They have a full time programme and their preparation is second to none, they're extremely fit and they have some very fast players up front.

"They sit behind the football and wait for teams to make mistakes and in World Cup football - certainly at U-20 level - that's a tactic that can reward you. Qatar can go a long way in the tournament," he said.

With Australia looking from the outside in at the FIFA U-20 World Cup just across the ditch, Okon says the start of the next cycle is a crucial period for his country in the U-20 age group. 

Okon says there is a need for players to be playing continuously and acknowledged Football Federation Australia is playing its part by arranging seven quality international matches.

"One of the big issues we have is the players don't play for two months of the year. For some of our players tonight, and against New Zealand on Sunday, it was their first game since February.

"It's an issue for us and we're still trying to find the solution. But if you want to compete at international level you need to have a good base so that's something we're aware of and trying to fill that gap in by playing more games.

"We've got more games coming up when we return to Australia after the four we've got here, against Brazil, USA and Mexico.

"These games are invaluable and it starts the ball rolling for the next cycle and we're excited about that. We do have some other players we didn't bring for various reasons including some who are involved with the Hyundai A-League playoffs.

"We only got together last week for a brief training camp so we're happy with how things have gone so far," he said.

Australia U-20s next two matches are in Hamilton, the first of which is with Panama on Sunday before turning their attention toward Ghana on Wednesday.