Aussie sharpshooter eyes world stage
© AFP

Corey Gameiro is aiming to be the latest in a long line of Australia strikers to make a mark at the FIFA U-20 World Cup when the Young Socceroos tackle the 24-nation field in Turkey this June. David Mitchell, Frank Farina and Jim Patikas made their names in the tournament’s early era, when it was known as the FIFA World Youth Championship. Mark Viduka and Kosta Salapasidis carved out their own respective niches by finishing among the top goalscorers at Qatar 1995 and Malaysia 1997 respectively. The Aussie benchmark, however, remains that set by Mark Koussas who won the adidas Golden Ball on home turf as the Young Socceroos debuted at the tournament way back in 1981.

Now the class of 2013 have their own shot at history. Gameiro will lead the attack and he confidently backs his ability to make a mark in Turkey. And the bare statistics give credence to the Fulham-based striker’s self-assuredness. Somewhat remarkably, Gameiro scored all six of Australia’s goals during their run to the AFC U-19 Championship semi-finals which secured qualification for Turkey 2013. Now the challenge is to take that goalscoring knack from continental level to the world stage.

Taking opportunities
For Gameiro and many of his team-mates the qualifying campaign in United Arab Emirates last November offered a rare chance to shine in an international environment. “It was the first time I represented Australia to any extent after going to Colombia as second striker and not getting any game time,” Gameiro told FIFA.com. “So it was important for me to go to the qualifying tournament and play with passion.”

Much water has passed under the bridge since the-then 18-year-old Gameiro cooled his heels on the bench throughout the Young Socceroos campaign at Colombia 2011.

After some interest from Liverpool, the teenager made the quantum leap from the slow-paced beachside vibe of Wollongong 90 minutes south of Sydney, to the bright lights of London and a contract with Fulham. Gameiro was soon turning heads at Craven Cottage helping the Academy side to success, notably winning the Premier Academy League title last year.

However a loan spell a few months ago at FC Eindhoven in the Netherlands proved less than successful with game time limited. Gameiro’s short career then took an upswing with a brief, though successful, stint on loan with Wellington Phoenix in the A-League.

Young Socceroo royalty
The recent draw for Turkey 2013 pitted Australia alongside El Salvador, Colombia and the host nation in Group C. It is an intriguing challenge for the Young Socceroos but Gameiro exudes confidence in his team-mates. And unlike some previous Australian U-20 teams many of the current squad are enjoying regular first team football.

At the team’s helm is coach Paul Okon, who perhaps boasts more FIFA U-20 World Cup credentials than any other Australian, having captained the team to the semi-finals at Portugal 1991, falling only to a star-laden home side at the penultimate hurdle. Known for his cultured ball-playing style, Okon went onto play for Lazio and in the English Premier League.

And Gameiro is not only enjoying life under Okon but is also thriving in the team’s style of play. “Paolo [Okon] always wants us to play football, has us play out from the back and lets us express ourselves which is good,” said Gameiro.

“The formation we have suits the players that we have which is rare. Sometimes [in other teams] certain players have to play out of position,” said the 20-year-old. “At the moment every player is in their true position where they are strongest.”

Gameiro, who has a Portuguese-born father and a mother with an English background, eagerly points to the service he receives from midfield via the likes of Terry Antonis and Mustapha Amini. So too the on-field synergy he enjoys with close friend and Fulham team-mate Ryan Williams.

“We have a very good Under 20s team and I think we can go to the World Cup with confidence and upset a few teams,” Gameiro says. “I’m excited and for me it is an opportunity to show the world what I can do.”