Brunei start AFC Under-23 Championship Qualifiers with loss to Australia
Wednesday, July 19, 2017
Brunei opened their AFC Under-23 Championship qualifiers in Myanmar with a 2-0 loss to Asian powerhouses Australia today, with goalkeeper Haimie Anak Nyaring impressing with several key saves.
The team held the Australians, who Brunei are playing for the first time at any age-group level, to a 0-0 draw at half-time at the Thuwunna Stadium in Yangon.
Australia dominated the game and created 10 goal scoring chances in the Group F tie, but Haimie denied them time and again.
But Australia’s persistence paid off when George Blackwood converted a penalty in the 53rd minute and 18-year-old midfielder Riley McGree – who confirmed a move to Belgian first division side Club Brugge earlier in the day – added the second after a mazy run into the box in the 85th minute.
“I am satisfied with our performance in the first half. Hopefully we will learn from this match,” national coach Kwon Oh-son was quoted as saying 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.
Competing in an international tournament for the first time, the team will also be lacing up at next month’s SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur.
Brunei face hosts Myanmar on Friday in their second game of the AFC Under-23 Championship qualifiers before ending their campaign on Sunday against Singapore. Australia play Singapore in their next match on Friday. Singapore and Myanmar play each other in today’s other game.
Australia coach Josep Gombau, meanwhile, praised Brunei for their spirited performance and Haimie for his display in goal.
“Even though we got only two goals, it is a victory,” Gombau was quoted as saying on the AFC website.
“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.
The qualifiers comprise of 40 teams from across Asia divided into 10 groups, and the 10 group winners and five best second-placed teams will progress to next year’s AFC Under-23 Championship in China from January 9-27.
Photos courtesy of Myanmar Football Federation