Brunei kick off AFC U-23 C’Ship qualifiers with defeat to Australia

Caption: The national under-23 football team pose for a group photo prior to kick off against Australia. Picture: Courtesy of NFABD

Yee Chun Leong

BRUNEI kicked off their AFC Under-23 Championship qualifiers with a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Australia in Group F yesterday.

The match is the first time that the team are playing in an international tournament and is also the first time Brunei contested against Australian at any age-group level.

The Australians created 10 goal scoring chances but couldn’t find a way past goalkeeper Haimie Anak Nyaring to see the first half end goalless at the Thuwunna Stadium in Yangon.

The Asian powerhouses Australia finally broke the deadlock after George Blackwood converted a penalty in the 53rd minute.

They confirmed all three points after 18-year-old Riley McGree, who confirmed a move to Belgian first division side Club Brugge yesterday, added a second five minutes from time.

Md Shafie Hj Md Effendy (L) and Nicholas Chad Cowburn of Australia go after the ball in their Group F match of the AFC U-23 C'Ship qualifiers. Picture: Courtesy of Myanmar Football Federation

National coach Kwon Oh-son was pleased with the showing of his charges.

“I’m satisfied with the performance in the first half. Hopefully we will learn from this match,” said Kwon as quoted on the AFC website.

“Australia are very strong opponents compared to other ASEAN countries, and hopefully we can continue with our first half performance towards the SEA Games - but first it is important that we focus on our games here,” he added.

Australia coach Josep Gombau also praised the Brunei team for their display.

“Even though we got only two goals, it is a victory,” said Gombau.

“Brunei were good opponents and we were unfortunate in the first half – the keeper saved good shots and our strikers missed a few.

“In our team, all players are key players. I believe in each of my players’ performance. We are focused on this tournament as our aim is to qualify,” he added.

Trent Buhagiar (R) of Australia shields the ball from Shakir Hj Basri of Brunei. Picture: Courtesy of Myanmar Football Federation

The other Group F match yesterday saw the hosts Myanmar beat Singapore 2-0.

Brunei will next take on Myanmar on Friday before ending their campaign two days later against Singapore.

The qualifiers comprise of 39 teams from across Asia divided into 10 groups. The group winners and five best second-placed teams will progress to next year’s AFC Under-23 Championship in China from January 9-27.

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