Australia have a consistent record at the FIFA U-17 World Cup, and until missing the two most recent tournaments they had featured in all but one tournament dating back to the inaugural edition in 1985. The Australians peaked at New Zealand 1999, when they reached the final only to fall agonisingly short of hoisting the nation’s only FIFA trophy when they were defeated on penalties by Brazil. The match marked the end of a remarkable career for legendary Australian youth coach Les Scheinflug who took the team to a record four U-17 World Cups as well as five U-20 tournaments.
Mexico 2011 will be Australia's first appearance at a FIFA U-17 World Cup since their move to Asia in 2006, and they sealed their place in the most dramatic fashion. Down 2-0 against rising youth force United Arab Emirates, the Joeys pulled a goal back with eight minutes remaining, before equalising a full four minutes into injury time. Forward Jesse Makarounas claimed himself a small slice of history with an extra-time winner. Exhausted physically and mentally, the Australians bowed out at the semi-finals of the Asian championship against host nation Uzbekistan but the players will benefit from the experience of playing in front of 30,000 fans at the Pakhtakor Stadium.
After a tough qualifying competition, the Australians will not lack for a sense of togetherness come party time in Mexico. Much of the squad are based at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) working under head coach Jan Versleijen, who doubles as national U-20 boss, and assistant Gary Van Egmond, who took Newcastle Jets to the A-League title in 2008. Many of the group will also benefit from the AIS’s participation in the national youth league, where they play against older players.