The Young Socceroos have missed World Cup qualification
The Young Socceroos have missed World Cup qualification

Young Socceroos miss World Cup qualification

THE Young Socceroos have fallen one hurdle short of qualifying for next year's FIFA U20 World Cup in Poland after going down 3-1 to Saudi Arabia at the AFC U19 Championship in Indonesia overnight.

Ante Milicic's side went behind in just the 7th minute when Turki Al-Ammar opened the scoring for the Arabians.

But their lead wouldn't last until the break, as Melbourne City's Nathaniel Atkinson struck just before half-time to restore parity at a key time for the Aussies.

That lifeline didn't last long however, when Firas Albirakan struck in the 50th minute to restore the Saudis' lead - and from there, they never surrendered the ascendancy.

Saud Saud Abdulhamid's 82nd minute goal rounding out the scoreline and sending the Australians packing without a World Cup ticket.

Nathaniel Atkinson celebrates scoring for Australia
Nathaniel Atkinson celebrates scoring for Australia

"I'm super proud of them to get out of the group and to make it possible to be involved in this game," Milicic said after the game.

"We gave everything, we overcame a lot of adversity throughout our short time together, and I know that these players as individuals will have learnt a lot from this experience by playing in Asia in these conditions.

"We go home disappointed but I'm sure all of us players and staff will have learnt a lot of lessons during this last month."

Saudi Arabia dominated the statistics throughout the match, registering 27 shots to Australia's 11 and boasting 55 per cent of possession across the 90 minutes.

Coach Milicic had spoken with following his team's 1-1 draw with Jordan in their final group game, and suggested that a lack of senior minutes was hampering his team's chances of competing with their Asian rivals.

Young Socceroos concede a goal
Young Socceroos concede a goal

"It's different, only because a lot of our boys here that we've got in haven't played enough senior football," Milicic said.

"So they're not conditioned, they don't have the kilometres in their legs and the level that they're currently playing isn't at a high enough intensity to get used to what's on offer in Asia. And also playing in Asia, you're coming across different variations of play and that's something that we're not used to."

Australia haven't qualified for a U20 World Cup since 2013, and that wait now continues.