Paul Okon believes his Young Socceroos side is tracking well for October’s AFC U-19 Championships after another strong performance, this time against the Foxtel A-League All Stars.
The Australian under-20 more than matched it with the Hyundai A-League’s best, playing out a 0-0 draw in Wollongong on Tuesday night.
It follows on from their unbeaten run and impressive showing at the recent NTC invitational tournament in California.
There may have been a belief Okon’s youngster may have been overawed by taking on the big names in the All Stars side – including Italian legend Alessandro Del Piero – but it wasn’t the case in front of almost 7000 fans at WIN Stadium.
“That was something we talked about pre-match and to be honest I was a little bit afraid of that,” Okon said after full-time at WIN Stadium.
“Some of them train with them and know them personally, but it's different when they're playing against them in another team.
“So that was positive. For the first 20 minutes we struggled a bit with the pace of the game but once we got through that we were able to keep the ball make one or two chances.
“For us, it's vital to get games like that. We had a successful tournament in the US, some good results but also some really good performances considering that a lot of players had just started pre-season. I thought this game the performance was excellent again and very encouraging.”
Despite giving up the majority of possession, the Young Socceroos still manufactured some good chances, with Jaushua Sotorio and Chris Naumoff going close.
But it was the emerging back-four Scott Galloway, Shane D’Cunha, Daniel Alessi and Ben Garuccio that most impressed Okon.
“We will always create chances by the way we're set up and the attacking way we want to play but defensively is where we have our challenges.
“Tonight we protected our goal, which is important when we go away for qualifiers. We had a 16-year-old defender in there, Ben Garuccio, who's played most of his career as a left-winger but is a left back now.
“I was really happy about that. Since the poor performance in the qualifiers against Vietnam, the group's changed a lot and that's 10 games unbeaten. That mentality is important to be resilient and get results.”
The Young Socceroos take on Western Sydney Wanderers FC in another friendly match on Friday before a tournament in Vietnam later this month.
The AFC Under-19 Championships in October will be played in Myanmar, with the side needing to make the semi-finals to qualify for next year’s FIFA U-20 World Cup in New Zealand.