Chile 2015 will be Australia’s 12th FIFA U-17 World Cup. Their best performance to date came at New Zealand 1999, when they finished runners-up after losing to Brazil on penalties in the final. On their last appearance, which came at Mexico 2011, the Aussies qualified for the knockout rounds as one of the best third-placed sides in the group phase, but then went out after losing to Uzbekistan 4-0 in the last 16. Absent from the last U-17 world finals, held in the United Arab Emirates in 2013, the Australians have reached the quarter-finals on six occasions, the last of them coming at Trinidad and Tobago 2001.
Australia got off to a fast start at the 2014 AFC U-16 Championship, winning all three of their Group B matches against China PR, Hong Kong and Japan, a perfect record that only Korea Republic were able to match. Tony Vidmar’s side secured their ticket to Chile with a 2-1 defeat of Malaysia in the quarter finals, though their run came to an end in the semis, where eventual champions Korea DPR beat them 4-1 on penalties after a 1-1 draw in normal time.
A former international, Vidmar was appointed national U-17 team coach in 2013. He has since built the side around free-scoring front man Cameron Joice – the side’s leading marksman at the Asian finals – and midfielder Joe Caletti, who also wears the captain’s armband. Following his side’s qualification for Chile 2015, Vidmar said: “We’ve still got a lot to learn and 12 months in which to prepare for the World Cup.”