Wednesday, October 28, 2009

AFC under-16 championship preview with Australian coach Robbie Hooker

So it's been a while since an Australian youth girls team has qualified for a FIFA under-17 or under-20 World Cup. The last team was the one that went in 2006 to the under-20 event in Russia. And just to clarify, these events are held every two years, not four like the senior World Cups. The under-19 girls just missed out in controversial circumstances earlier this year for next year's under-20 tournament.
But anyway, now it's almost November and that means that the next Australian women's team chance is now. They will leave on Sunday morning for Thailand, where Japan, China and Chinese Taipei face them in the group stages of the under-16 AFC women's cup.
Australia have to finish in the top-three in the eight-team tournament to qualify for next year's under-17 FIFA World Cup in Trinidad and Tobago.
It's going to be tough, but new Australian coach Robbie Hooker thinks this team could be the one to do it. girlswithgame caught up with Hooker this week to find out why.

 girlswithgame: It's been a while since an Australian youth women's team has qualified for a youth women's FIFA World Cup, can this group do it? Robbie Hooker: This group has probably the best chance of any of the previous U/17 squads as the elite training programs in each state have improved and the W-League has given opportunity to young players that were not previously there.

Australia's group, China, Japan and Chinese Taipei, seems like a pretty tough one, what are you expecting the competition to be like? China and Japan will be very hard to beat but we should knock over Chinese Taipei.

This Australian team does seem to be a pretty talented one, as well as two girls in particular who have made an impact in the W-League, Sam Kerr and Emily van Egmond, what else is strong about the team? The team has a good all round look and feel about it. Apart from the two players you have mentioned there are probably another 8-10 players that are or should be playing in the W League. Their technical ability is good and now they are learning a lot tactically as well.

From the ASEAN tournament, it seemed like there was a lot of different goalscorers, is that one of the strengths in the squad? There was a lot of goal scorers but that was because we created a lot of chances from all types of attacking play, counter attacks and set plays as well.

Your also a defensively minded coach, given that's where you played, how is the defence shaping up? Don't know why you think I am a defensive minded coach, I consider myself a winning minded coach. Almost all winning teams have a good defensive structure and record. If that is defensive minded then I am guilty. We actually scored 45 goals with at least 12 different goal scorers but having said that we did work a lot on our defensive structure (will need it in Thailand) but that actually starts in the opponents third of the field so it is an aggressive or attacking defensive structure.

You have said before this group is one of the most technically gifted to come through, why do you think that is? Technically, this group of players have had the best environment to train in with all the NTC programs around the country.

You lost Nicola Bolger to an ACL injury while over in Myanmar, will she be a big loss? Nicola will be a huge loss for this team. She was a real contender to lead the side in Thailand so not only did we lose a great midfielder but I need to think of other players to lead the team. Her vision and reading and understanding of football was second to none in this team and that is extremely hard to replace.

The conditions are probably going to be one of the toughest things, did the trip to Myanmar help prepare the girls in that sense? The Myanmar trip was ideal in terms of acclimatising the players to the heat and humidity that we will get in Thailand.

You are back in camp from Wednesday this week until you head over, what will be some of the most important things you will be doing in this camp? The pre tour camp is probably the most important camp we will have had. We will be working on the things that I think we need to do to beat China in the first game. That is the total focus between now and next Thursday. As this is an under age group there is still a lot of educational and developmental focus as well but in reality that will be secondary for this trip. This is all about getting a result.

Is it a final selection camp, or will the girls from the ASEAN tournament be the ones going over? There was only 20 players involved in the ASEAN trip but we are able to take 23 to Thailand. All players apart from Nicola will go to Thailand and we have added 4 more to the list so we will be taking the max allowable.

And finally, it's your first major tournament as an Australian head coach, are you excited? I am extremely excited about the leading this group of players and playing my bit in getting them to the WC. I really thrive on the challenge of competition not only as a player but now as a coach.
Throughout the tournament, keep up with the latest news at the AFC official website. girlswithgame will also being doing its utmost to bring you previews and then the results ASAP after the games. So watch this space. And to the girls, coaches and staff, good luck!

Here is the squad that started camp today. Teigen Allen Sydney Sydney FC, Tara Andrews Newcastle Newcastle Jets FC, Hannah Brewer Newcastle Newcastle Jets FC, Sharni Brown Sydney North West Sydney Koalas, Stephanie Catley Melbourne Melbourne Victory FC, Brianna Davey Melbourne Football Victoria NTC, Elizabeth Durack Sydney North West Sydney Koalas, Erika Elze Brisbane QAS, Ashlee Faul Adelaide Adelaide United FC, Caitlin Foord Sydney NSWIS, Caitlin Friend Melbourne Melbourne Victory FC, Michaela Hatzirodos Brisbane QAS, Amy Higgins Brisbane QAS, Alexandra Huynh Sydney Marconi, Alanna Kennedy Sydney NSWIS, Samantha Kerr Perth Perth Glory FC, Heidi Makrillos Sydney NSWIS, Candace Sciberras Sydney Marconi, Madeline Searl Newcastle Newcastle Jets, Rebekah Stott Brisbane QAS, Emily Van Egmond Canberra Canberra United FC, Ruth Wallace Adelaide Adelaide United FC, Brittany Whitfield Sydney Sydney FC.

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