Australia
© AFC

The past
Australia has an impressive record at the FIFA U-20 World Cup with their failure to qualify for Canada 2007 their only absence from the competition in over two decades. The Young Socceroos’ most successful period was the early 1990s when they achieved successive semi-finals appearances (1991 and 1993), followed by a last eight finish in 1995. That generation of U-20 national teams produced a raft of talent including Mark Bosnich, Paul Okon, Craig Moore and Mark Viduka.

Colombia 2011 will provide an opportunity for the Young Socceroos to compete in a part of the world within which Australia made a breakthrough showing at a FIFA tournament. Mexico 1983 saw Australia open the tournament against the hosts in front of over 100,000 spectators at the Azteca, earning a creditable 1-1 draw in the process. The following match produced a 2-1 win against Scotland, hailed at the time as a significant achievement against a more fancied European nation.

The present
The current generation came within a whisker of claiming a unique victory at the 2010 AFC U-19 Championship, eventually losing 3-2 to Korea DPR in the final. Success would have seen the squad be the first Australian men’s team to be crowned champions of Asia since the country’s move into the confederation in 2006. Jan Versleijen’s youngsters will take much heart from their efforts in China last October as the Young Socceroos topped a tough group, which also featured regional heavyweights Korea Republic and Iran. Qualification for Colombia 2011 was confirmed with a hard-fought extra-time victory against United Arab Emirates. There followed a 2-0 semi-final win against Saudi Arabia before their luck ran out in the closing moments of the final.

The future
The current crop of Young Socceroos are the most experienced group of youngsters to don the green and gold at this level in a number of years, with many of the current side enjoying regular first-team football in the Australian A-League. It is coach Jan Versleijen’s second FIFA U-20 World Cup campaign and he has instilled an element of Dutch flair into the team’s style of play. The side has technical ability across the park, with pace to burn through winger Tommy Oar.