|Young guns: Viet Nam will play Australia in the first match of Group B at the AFF U19 Cup in Ha Noi tomorrow. — Photo giaothongvantai.com.vn
HA NOI (VNS) — Viet Nam will play Australia in tomorrow's Group B opening match of the ASEAN Football Federation's (AFF) Nuti Food U19 Cup at Ha Noi's My Dinh National Stadium.
It will be a rematch of two teams who met nearly a year ago in the qualifying round of the Asian U19 Championships in Malaysia, with Viet Nam winning, 5-1.
Australia arrived here yesterday and are seeking to avenge their loss with a number of changes in their line-up.
Simon Roberts, head of the Australian team, told reporters at Noi Bai International Airport that his team would be competing against Viet Nam with their strongest players.
The Cup will be Australia's last test before the Asian championship in Myanmar next month.
Coach Paul Okon has kept only eight members of the team that lost to Viet Nam, including captain Christopher Josif Hagi Gligor and midfielders Christopher Naumoff, Scott Robert Galloway and Rafael David Jimenez Serrano.
Daniel de Silva is the most wanted player among the Australians, as he was considered a prodigy of the country, with a transfer fee of US$2.5 million.
Silva, the A-League's youngest player when he turned professional at age 15 in 2012, said he would score to beat Viet Nam.
He has been a member of Serie A's AS Roma jersey since March but is on a one-year loan to Perth Glory, his original club, for more experience.
Awer Mabil, 19, is another goal hunter of the young Socceroos.
Mabil recently scored four goals in Australia's friendly tour of America and was voted the best young player of Australia in 2012-13.
Apart from Silva, Harry Ascroft and Peter Skapetis are playing for clubs in the Netherlands and England while the rest are competing in the A-League.
Roberts said the Nuti Food Cup lured strong teams such as Thailand and Japan, as well as the hosts.
He said it is difficult to judge the power of all the teams, but Australia is set to have best result here.
Roberts admitted that his squad, whose performance has improved over that of last year, must beat the hosts in the first match and get a good result against Japan in the next game to enter the semi-finals.
But the hosts are prepared for another win. Most of their players are from Hoang Anh Gia Lai - Arsenal JMG Academy, and they have added only two new players.
Coach Graechen Guillaume has called on Tran Anh Thi, who can play centre-back and midfielder, and Tran Minh Vuong, the V-League's best young player, to provide support in defence, considered Viet Nam's weakest point as seen in recent competitions.
Viet Nam won a silver medal in the recent ASEAN Youth Football Championship in Brunei and trained hard through the September 2 holiday to ensure that they were in tip-top shape for the 10-day event.
The team flew from Pleiku City to the capital city yesterday and will train for one day at My Dinh before their first match.
Japan, also bracketed in Group B, brought only 17 players here, and most of them are substitutes. Coach Suzuki Masakazu said other players were taking part in ongoing competitions in their respective domestic leagues and could not leave their clubs.
However, Japan is still considered a powerful team and is playing on a higher level than ASEAN.
Japan will play their first match against Australia on September 7. — VNS