Resilient Subway Young Socceroos become Marbella Marvels

Consecutive victories over France, Netherlands and Denmark don't come around too often in the footballing world, but that is exactly what the Subway Young Socceroos achieved in their recent trip to Spain for the 2023 Marbella Tournament.

In a remarkable display of resilience and talent, these triumphs marked a monumental achievement for the Australian Men Under-20s, showcasing their growing potential and determination on the international stage.

The Marbella Week of Football is an annual friendly tournament held at one of the most highly regarded football facilities in Europe, which has been used as a training camp venue for the likes of the Argentinian, French and English national teams as well as club giants, Liverpool FC and Borussia Dortmund.

The Subway Young Socceroos may have entered the tournament as underdogs on paper, however, they arrived in Marbella with confidence from their performances at the Portuguese Football Federation's Portugal Sub-18 International Tournament in June 2023, where they faced some of Europe's best against Portugal (2-4 loss), England (2-3 loss) and Norway (2-1 win).

Just over 100 days later, the talented group was once again tasked with tackling European footballing powerhouses at the Marbella tournament, this time, however, with the team goal to build on learnings from Lisbon tournament and win matches against these top European teams.

Trevor Morgan, the head coach of the Subway Young Socceroos, emphasised the significance of belief in the team's abilities and highlighted the importance of playing high-level international matches to develop players, especially in the absence of a National Youth League.

"When compared to the Portugal Sub-18 tournament in June, heading into the Marbella Week of Football, we changed a third of the squad, some due to injuries, but also wanting to present opportunities and expose some new players to the level, therefore building depth in this age group," Morgan said.

"The squad showed an ability to be composed and resilient and when the other teams got the ascendancy, kept our structure and way of playing, and showed we can match it with some of Europe’s best nations.

"With National Teams, we prepare the players as best we can in a short period of time. The plan here is to throw them into the fire against top teams, and they show the capacity to adapt and compete with self-confidence to play good football under pressure. It's a really positive sign for Australian football."


Sixteen of the 23-player squad are currently playing in the Isuzu UTE A-League Men competition and were presented with a golden opportunity to showcase their skills to the high-profile figures in attendance, including legendary French footballer Zinedine Zidane, whose son played for the French team.

The next challenge for the group is navigating the upcoming tricky period of their career and continue to strive for more match minutes and opportunities.

"When you're 18 or 19 we know that this is can be one of the trickiest parts of a young footballer’s career," Morgan continued.

"You're starting to get close to the top level in football and trying to break through that ceiling to the next level and become an established first team player.

"When in the national team environment, we try to give them as much encouragement and positive reinforcement and support to say, ‘you're up for this challenge and keep pushing’,” Morgan concluded.

The Subway Young Socceroos' six matches against formidable opponents like France, Netherlands, England, and Portugal serve as a springboard for more substantial challenges.

The Subway Young Socceroos' remarkable victories in the Marbella Tournament stand as a testament to their burgeoning potential and unyielding spirit. With a collective commitment to excellence supported by a brace of belief and unity, the Subway Young Socceroos are undoubtedly on the rise.

Subway Young Socceroos def France (1-1, 4-2 on penalties)

The Subway Young Socceroos took the lead inside the eighth minute through Central Coast Mariners’ youngster Bailey Brandtman before France pulled one back just before the break.

Despite a French side featuring players from Real Madrid, AS Monaco and AC Milan, the Subway Young Socceroos went toe-to-toe with their more favoured rivals, finishing regular time even on shots on target (4) and looked dangerous in transition.

Australia went on to win the match 4-2 on penalties, with Adelaide United's Steven Hall making two saves to secure the victory.

Young Socceroos
Photo credit: Sergio Lopez.

Subway Young Socceroos def Netherlands (1-1, 5-4 on penalties)

The Subway Young Socceroos, featuring nine Isuzu UTE Men A-League-based players in the starting XI, trailed the Netherlands 1-0 before the decision to bring in fresh legs midway through the second half saw Brisbane Roar teen sensation, Thomas Waddingham equalise in the 58th minute to eventually force penalties.

With attacking prodigies from Juventus FC, AFC Ajax, and Borussia Dortmund, the Dutch had ten more shots than the Subway Young Socceroos. In a testament to their resolve, the Subway Young Socceroos withstood the onslaught and refused to falter.

Late in the first half the Young Socceroos found some rhythm, and then after the break with several fresh legs joining in around 55’ minutes they equalized and then had some sustained periods of dominance, despite the Dutch going hard for the win.

The Subway Young Socceroos went on to win the match 5-4 on penalties with Hall's goal protection once again helping secure the victory.

Young Socceroos
Photo credit: Sergio Lopez.

Subway Young Socceroos def Denmark (2-2, 7-6 on penalties)

After already conquering France and the Netherlands on penalties, Australia overcame Denmark 7-6 via spot-kicks once again to finish their Marbella tournament undefeated.

Brisbane Roar whiz-kid Waddingham made it two goals in two games with his 18th-minute strike before Denmark equalised four minutes before half-time.

Featuring the highly touted Højlund twins, Denmark took the lead within three minutes of the match restarting and appeared on track for a win until Central Coast Mariners youngster Brandtman struck three minutes from the end for his second goal of the tournament.

The Subway Young Socceroos once again withstood a barrage of attacks to turn Denmark away again and again. 

The Subway Young Socceroos held firm and scored a great goal late in the second half to level the scores and once again send the match to penalties. Joeys’ captain Anthony Pavlesic started the match in goal before Max Vartuli entered for the second half, going on to make important penalty saves and steer the Australians to victory, capping off a triumphant tournament.

Young Socceroos
Photo credit: Sergio Lopez.