A late Corey Gameiro goal has helped the Qantas Young Socceroos through to the quarter-finals of the AFC U-19 Championships.
The Qantas Young Socceroos are through to the quarter-finals of the AFC U-19 Championship after staging a dramatic comeback to record a 1-all draw with Saudi Arabia in their final group match at the Emirates Stadium in the UAE last night.
Corey Gameiro was once again the hero for the Qantas Young Socceroos when the substitute scored a very late goal in stoppage time to level the scores when it seemed that the Australian tournament campaign was about to end.
Going into the match, the Qantas Young Socceroos knew that anything but a loss would get them through to the knock-out stage of the tournament, but they began the match in very positive fashion and were the better of the two teams within the first 15 minutes. The Qantas Young Socceroos applied significant amount of pressure on the Saudi goal early as indicated by a number of corners in a very short period of time that put the middle eastern opponents on the back foot.
Midway through the first half Saudi Arabia began to create chances of their own, but many of their shots were wide of the target and didn-t trouble the Qantas Young Socceroos goal keeper Paul Izzo.
In the 26th minute, Izzo was called into action to make a good reflex save from Saleh Khalid who shot from inside the Qantas Young Socceroos penalty box.
Just before the half time whistle, Izzo pulled off a great double save to deny the Saudis and keep the scores level going into the break.
The second half saw the Saudi-s take the game to the Qantas Young Socceroos and within the first five minutes had a barrage of corners that mirrored the Australian attack of the first half. Fortunately the Qantas Young Socceroos defence held firm and Izzo-s goal remained intact.
The Saudis broke the deadlock three minutes before the hour-mark when Ahmed Alshehri set-up Al Muwallad who shot from 14 yards out into the top right corner of the goal giving Izzo no chance of saving.
The goal spurned the Qantas Young Socceroos into action and Head Coach Paul Okon made a telling tactical change to chase the result, that being Gameiro coming on in the 66th minute for Ryan Edwards who was wearing the captain-s arm band.
From there on, the Qantas Young Socceroos pushed forward and created a number of opportunities that came very close to finding the back of the net, in particular headers from Reece Caira, in the 62nd minute, and Corey Gameiro in the 81st minute.
In addition the Qantas Young Socceroos had numerous free-kick-s around the box, from being persistently fouled by the Saudi defence, that Terry Antonis took charge of, but was unable to do any great damage with.
With the clock ticking over the 90 minute mark and the very real possibility of Qantas Young Socceroos being knocked out of the tournament, Antonis found himself with the ball in the Saudi box and lobbed a pass to Gameiro who hit a perfect left-footed strike on the turn to the far post which levelled the scores and ensured the Qantas Young Socceroos passage to the quarter-final stage.
After the match, Qantas Young Socceroos Head Coach Paul Okon praised his team-s never-say-die mentality in grinding out the important result.
“Football delivers dramatic finishes at times and tonight was one of those. Fortunately we were able to equalise and qualify for the quarter finals,” said Okon
“To back up only two days after a very tough and physical game against Syria was very difficult and Saudi Arabia certainly made us work for every scoring opportunity.
“After Saudi Arabia scored we were able to lift the intensity and after so many chances we were able to score.
“I am amazed at the courage and self belief of our players and our mentality is to never give up and we deserve our place in the quarter finals. I would like to congratulate all the players and my staff on their determination and hard work. We now will recover and prepare ourselves for the most important match in the tournament, “concluded Okon.
In the other Group D match, Qatar defeated Syria 2-1.
The Qantas Young Socceroos will meet Jordan in the quarter-finals of the AFC U-19 Championship on Sunday evening at the Fujairah Stadium, Al Fujairah City (Kick-Off 7:00pm local, 2:00am AEDT) with the winner not only progressing to the semi-finals of the tournament, but also booking a berth at the FIFA U-20 World Cup which will be held in Turkey in June/July 2013.
Qantas Young Socceroos 1 (Corey Gameiro 90+1-) Saudi Arabia 1 (Fhad Al Muwallad 57 )