Australia U16 qualify with 4-0 win over Afghanistan

By Paul Green, in Malaysia

Australia have qualified for the Quarter Finals of the 2018 AFC Under-16 Championship after winning their third and final match on Group D against Afghanistan.

Played at MBPJ Stadium Petaling Jaya, the scene of their opening match loss to Korea Republic, Australia and their opponents had to deal with a 4:30pm kick-off on by far the warmest day of the tournament after a week of milder and mostly wetter conditions.

It was 34 degrees at kick-off and during the warm-up and even the hardy 115 spectators who attended could see how difficult it was for the players from both teams to cope with the excessive heat and humidity.

The 25,000-seater stadium meant that the sprinkling of loyal Australian fans and a smaller contingent supporting Afghanistan struggled to create much of an atmosphere.

Afghanistan were dealt a huge blow after only twenty minutes when their goalkeeper, M. Sharif Aminzada, was shown a red card, having been cautioned twice within the space of four minutes, for rushing well out of his penalty-area to confront Australian players breaking through their opponents’ defensive cordon.

At that stage Australia were already leading 1-0 from an eighth minute goal by Joseph Roddy, making his first starting appearance of the event, having come off the bench as a substitute in each of the team’s first two games.

Roddy took his goal well, arriving just in time to turn in a low cross from the left by Tristan Hammond as an Afghanistan defender made a desperate attempt to get there first.

The loss of their keeper meant that Afghanistan’s slim hopes of a win to celebrate at their first-ever ACC Under 16 appearance virtually disappeared there and then.

The keeper had denied Australia skipper Ryan Teague in the 16th minute, tipping the well-struck free-kick over the bar.

The replacement keeper, Hadi Alizada, showed he was up for the opportunity to take over by saving another free-kick by Teague in the moments after coming on.

Roddy looked tired after making many strong runs in the oppressive heat, but was able to provide a low cross from the by line in the 26th minute that towering centre forward, Noah Boric, was able to slam home at the far post.

Roddy claimed his brace in first-hand stoppage-time with a fine individual effort.

A strong passing movement that began inside the Australian half led to Australia’s fourth goal in the 61st minute.

Boric went through to face the keeper but after his first effort was parried he was able to tuck away the loose ball to claim a brace of his own.

Australia coach, Trevor Morgan, limping around his technical area after a pre-war dressing-room mishap, had by then given the visibly wilting Roddy and creative spark Tristan Hammond a break by reintroducing two of the opening match starters, Joshua Varga and Luke Duzel.

It was a comprehensive victory against a plucky opponent and Morgan was pleased with the team’s ability to bounce back after their humbling by Korea Republic in their first outing.

He explained that there’s still room for further improvement, but was happy with the team’s performance overall.

They’ll need to be sharp if they’re to beat Indonesia in Monday afternoon’s Quarter Final, but the team should enjoy the experience of playing in front of a huge crowd at the National Stadium where Indonesia have played in front of well over 11,000 fans at each of their last two games against Vietnam and India respectively.