A Tommy Oar thunderbolt free kick has saved Australia from the jaws of defeat in its opening fixture against Ecuador in the under 20's world cup. The young Socceroos turned in a largely underwhelming display against their South American opponents and were lucky to come away with a draw. However what is more worrying, is the fact that the same problems that occurred for the Joeys (under 17's) were re-occurring for the young Socceroos - more about that later. Here is Tommy Oar's cracking 89th minute goal:
Ecuador's goal came in the 24th minute after some brilliant work by striker de Jesús who put in a low cross forcing Australian 'keeper Birighitti into a save. The ball bounced favourably for Govea to finish for Ecuador. Not long before the goal, Montaño shot from range forcing an excellent save from Birighitti. One of Australia's best chances came within the opening 30 seconds of the game when Tommy Oar swung in a sumptuous cross to Kofi Danning at the back post, only for him to shoot over. Danning was at it again soon after playing a chipped cross across goal to the back post where it was cleared off the line by the Ecuadorian 'keeper.
Australia's back four were constantly under threat from the pace of the Ecuadorians. They also struggled to play out from the back - a key component of the new national football curriculum. The young Socceroos looked very much disjointed as they played numerous hopeful long balls to an isolated Kerem Bulut upfront - much like the Joeys in the under 17's world cup. The same cracks are already starting to appear in this under 20's squad and questions must be asked of the coach of both squads - Jan Versleijen. The Dutchman is highly credentialed in the world of football, but when you play players out of position - Dimitri Petratos was played as a Centre Mid when he is normally played as a winger - and changing the formation your credibility as a coach must be challenged. There is also no doubt the players have to take some of the responsibility as well.
Mustafa Amini showed glimpses of his potential with some great passing, however he looked disinterested in defending at times and didn't help Bulut press the opposition. Dylan McGowan and Trent Sainsbury were continually exposed in their centre back roles, with de Jesús' pace too much for both of them to handle. Rhyan Grant and Marc Warren were also quiet in this match and either looked to play long balls forward or pass back to the 'keeper or their centre back counter parts. Ecuador's high pressure game did not help the defenders, but they needed to find a suitable solution to combat this and they failed to do so. Tommy Oar constantly received long balls that he had to chase or bring down under heavy marking. But once he got on the ball he looked dangerous and won a free kick late on in the first half. His free kick could also be an early contender for goal of the tournament. Birighitti showed that Australia will have plenty of goal keeping options once the great Mark Schwarzer retires with an excellent performance. But the man who changed the game was young Sydney FC player Terry Antonis. He came on for captain Ben Kantarovski in the 59th minute and took charge in a directionless midfield. He provided the much needed link from Australia's defence to its attack. Antonis also looked calm and confident on the ball, hitting players with pin point accuracy.
Ecuador thoroughly deserved the victory in this match. The Australian's should thank their lucky stars for this result. Hopefully Versleijen makes some changes to the starting XI for their next match against Costa Rica on Thursday morning (Australian time). There is a lot of talent in this squad, hopefully Versleijen can harness this and get the players firing for their next match.