Tempering our Young Socceroos great expectations

by Adam Peacock on Jul 26, 2011

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What do we want from our youth?

No, not the one’s annoying the be-jesus out of us with their soulless musical ramblings and whimsical ways (you, Beiber).

Our football youth.

In a matter of days, the Young Socceroos will embark on the Under 20 World Cup in Colombia.
We will get to see our next crop in action on the world stage against the best the planet has to offer.

But does it really matter?

For the man in the charge, Jan Versleijen, it’s a big moment.

He’s wearing three hats at the moment, as boss of the under 17’s and under 20’s AND the AIS program.
A bit like the Guus Hiddink-induced Dutch love-in that’s waned somewhat, the same people who wanted a ticker-tape parade after our playing style at the under 20 World Cup in Egypt in 2009 – which ended in three losses – were baying for Versliejen blood (say it vengefully – sounds dramatic) after the recent under 17 World Cup, where the Joeys made the knockout stages.

You could argue, for the future of Australian football, his main gig is the AIS one. That’s where he’d have most input into the guidance of our young elite, working with them on a regular basis.

As for the under 20’s – they gather from their respective clubs, who have their respective styles, and coaches with their respective philosophies.

Surely it’s about a few little steps of personal development as footballers – one’s that might not be recognisable in an instant. Like, for instance, dealing with the physiological situation of playing against fellow elite in a non-English speaking land when you know those back at home are watching.

And then surely a guy like Mustafa Amini is going to learn the most about himself as a footballer in the next 18 months, as he becomes the heartbeat of a side (Central Coast) then jets off to finishing school at the current German champions (Borussia Dortmund). That’s not to say he’ll not learn in Colombia… just a few little steps…

This squad will never play again together. Some will prosper. Hopefully many. But don’t count of the majority to become fixtures in the Socceroos line up for the next decade.

Go back to 1991, and our much-celebrated under-20 side that finished 4th at the World Cup in Portugal. A fantastic achievement, on a grand, grand scale (playing in front of over 100,000 people in the semi against the hosts).

How many played more than 20 times for the Socceroos? Most of them? Nup. Half of them? Nup. Try five of them — Okon, Corica, Popovic, Muscat, Kalac. It should be noted that Bozza would have and could have, but didn’t.

And success at this level is anything but a guarantee for future glory. Ask Argentina. They’ve won six of the last eight under 20 World Cups. In that time, how many trophies have their senior team won? A big, fat, Maradona-stomach-like zero.

So there, I’ve just tried to talk down our chances of getting anything remotely meaningful out of this tournament. And if we do produce a memorable tournament, who gives a flying Jabulani.
That’s not the intention.

I do care. I will watch, and be nervous about it.

But it’s just a little part of them becoming footballers.

It’s not the Beiber all and end all.