Gameiro got game

by John Davidson on Nov 21, 2012

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A star is born

The Young Socceroos have qualified for next year’s Under-20 World Cup and unearthed a potent goal-scorer in the shape of Corey Gameiro, John Davidson writes.

It was a result rightly celebrated across Australian football.

With tension rising and criticism building after the failures of the Olyroos and the Joeys, the Young Socceroos notched a vital achievement with their emphatic qualification for the 2013 U-20 World Cup. A ticket to the tournament in Turkey was earned after the team convincingly defeated Jordan 3-0 in the quarter-finals of the AFC U-19 Championship held in the UAE.

The Young Socceroos reached the quarters after defeating Qatar 1-0 in their opening game, recording a 1-1 draw with Syria and then a dramatic 1-1 draw with Saudi Arabia in their final group match.

The Australians had headed into their final group game only needing a draw to proceed but disaster struck when the Saudis score in the 57th minute and elimination beckoned. But up stepped the young striker, Corey James Gameiro, who came on as a sub to score the crucial goal to put the Young Socceroos through.

The Aussie team finished top of the group and went through to face Jordan, displaying the very tight margins at play in these tournaments. They were then far too strong for Jordan, securing a place in Turkey in 2013, but would later bow out to Iraq with a 2-0 loss in the semi-finals.

Still the main goal – World Cup qualification – had been reached and with some decent football being played. Young Socceroos coach Paul Okon was stoked with the result: “Qualifying is an amazing feeling especially as we’ve not been long together. The players and staff have formed a solid group and worked extremely hard to achieve qualification.”

This was a Young Socceroos squad laden with talent, with players with extensive A-League backgrounds and several based in England. Many had come through the ranks of the Joeys and previous Young Socceroos incarnations, like Connor Chapman, Terry Antonis and Mustafa Amini.

While others have decent European experience like Jackson Irvine (Celtic), Tom King (Bristol City), Ryan Edwards (Fulham), Jamie Maclaren (Blackburn Rovers), Curtis Good (Newcastle United), Travis Cooper (VVV Venlo) and Liam Jacob (Oldham Athletic). But the standout of the team was arguably Corey Gameiro.

The Wollongong-boy attacker, currently on loan to FC Eindhoven from Fulham, was one of the stars of the AFC tournament. Six goals in five matches, including a hat trick in the Jordan game, was a fantastic return. It had echoes of the last AFC competition for the Young Socceroos where Kerem Bulut was in tremendous goal-scoring form for Australia. Okon, in his first major tournament in charge of the Young Socceroos, is full of praise for Gameiro.

“We’ve played some good football in all of our games which has always been our ambition and off the back of that Gameiro has scored his goals,” Okon says. “He’s a winner which every team needs. He deserves the accolades that are coming his way. The strength of this team is the group. All 23 players have stood up.”

Gameiro received great service from the likes of Antonis, Edwards, Amini and others. This Young Socceroos outfit was well balanced in attack and defence and were committed to playing a positive, possession-based style of football. It boasted quality footballers across the park. This bodes well for the future, and Gameiro and his rich vein of form were one of the beneficiaries. The young striker, originally from NSW’s South Coast, has yet to fully find his feet at Fulham.

Gameiro joined the London-based club in 2011 and played in five matches for Conference South team Hayes & Yeading on loan last year. The former South Coast Wolves and Sydney FC junior was sent to Holland on loan this year and made his debut in the Dutch second division in August. So far he has made five appearances for FC Eindhoven but the 19-year old will return to Fulham at the start of 2013. It is crucial that Gameiro keeps getting game time and is allowed to develop. With huge potential and a knack for finding the back of the net, he could go very far.