The Joeys have been drawn with Iraq, Oman & Thailand in Group B for the AFC U-16 Championship 2012 which will be held in Tehran, Iran from 21 September to 6 October.
The draw was conducted in Tehran yesterday by Shin Man Gil, the AFC Director of National Team Competitions.
The Joeys were seeded in Pot 1 as the fourth ranked team in the competition along with host nation Iran, DPR Korea and Uzbekistan, by virtue of their placing at the 2010 edition of the tournament.
Joeys Head Coach Alistair Edwards is excited about the challenges his squad will face as part of the upcoming campaign.
"The standard of youth football throughout Asia has risen considerably over the past decade, there are no longer any easy games, which I think is a positive development”, said Edwards.
"At the recent qualifying tournament (for the AFC U-16 Championship) we lost to Thailand (2-3) so that gives you an indication of how competitive it is going to be to qualify for the FIFA World Cup.
"Each of the groups have quality teams and each country will be travelling to Iran with the objective of qualification. Having said that Group C looks particularly strong with four traditional powerhouses who heavily invest and recognise the importance of providing opportunities for the players and coaches to develop,” says Edwards.
“The situation with the draw means that two high quality teams will not even make it out of the group stage.
"It’s now down to narrowing our focus on selecting the tournament squads, not an easy task with such a good base of quality players.
"I am very happy with how the Qantas Joeys program is going, the regular weekend camps have been excellent. Getting to work with the players every three weeks has enabled the players to bond on and off the park and for Tony and I, in conjunction with a great group of NTC coaches to monitor them closely through regular contact,” explained the youth coach.
"We can't wait to start playing the upcoming high quality international games to continue our development, the countdown to Iran has begun and we can now look at who we will be playing in more detail,” concluded Edwards.
The Joeys will prepare for the competition by competing at the ASEAN Football Federation U-16 Preparatory Tournament in Vientiane, Laos from 2-8 June and will then travel to Saudi Arabia for a tournament in late July before heading to South America in August for an altitude training camp in Bolivia where they will play 5 friendly matches against quality local opposition.
The top two teams from each group of the AFC U-16 Championship 2012 will progress to the knockout stage (quarter-finals) and the four winners of the quarter-finals will then play in the semi-finals with the winners advancing to the final. The semi-finalists will also automatically qualify for the FIFA U-17 World Cup which will be held in the United Arab Emirates in late 2013.