Morton selected for AFC U-19 Championships

CENTRAL Coast Mariners National Youth League star Hayden Morton has been included in the Qantas Young Socceroos squad for the upcoming AFC U-19 Championship to be held in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

CENTRAL Coast Mariners National Youth League star Hayden Morton has been included in the Qantas Young Socceroos squad for the upcoming AFC U-19 Championship to be held in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Having recently returned from the Qantas Young Socceroos- tour of Portugal, Morton was today named in Paul Okon-s squad to contest the prestigious competition to be held in the Middle East between November 1 and 17.

Selection in Okon-s squad marks Morton-s continued rise in the green and gold after he was initially called into the team as a replacement player a few months ago. At late notice, Morton joined the Qantas Young Socceroos for a tour of Hong Kong and Vietnam.

An elated Morton today said he was proud to again be picked to represent Australia.

“It-s a great honour to play for Australia and the biggest you can have at my age,” he said. “It-s a big step up from the Joeys to the Young Socceroos, but hopefully I will keep progressing.”

Morton featured in both matches in the recent tour of Portugal, and was particularly prominent in the second friendly where he played the full 90 minutes.

He said the time in camp had helped the players bond before the challenge of the AFC U-19 Championships.

“Team unity is a big thing and being together in Portugal was great for our team camaraderie,” he said. “My goal now is to make the first eleven for the (AFC U-19) tournament.”

Former Central Coast Mariners midfielder Mustafa Amini, now of Bundesliga giants BVB Borussia Dortmund, has also been selected for the tournament.

Having worked intensely with this group of players for the past five months, Okon is looking forward to the upcoming tournament.

“We had a thorough process in selecting this squad with everyone having an opportunity to show themselves through training and match situations,” Okon said.

“There is a good mix of local and overseas-based players, and there were plenty of tough decisions that had to be made when settling on the final group.

“Our preparation for this tournament has been great with plenty of match practice. In particular, to be able to use the majority of these players at the AFC U-22 qualifiers in Indonesia in July gave us good competitive matches under tournament conditions which will serve us well once we get to the UAE.

“Whilst we know it will be a difficult challenge, I am confident that we have a strong-enough squad to progress from the group stage to the quarter-finals which will then come down to that one important game for us to perform in to qualify for the World Cup."

The Qantas Young Socceroos will assemble in the UAE this weekend and will finalise their preparations for the tournament with an international friendly against the Korea Republic on Tuesday.

The Qantas Young Socceroos have been drawn in Group D of the AFC U-19 Championship and will play their opening match against Qatar on Sunday 4 November (kick-off 3:00pm local, 10:00pm AEDT), followed by Syria Tuesday 6 November (kick-off 7:00pm local, 2:00am AEDT) and Saudi Arabia in their final group match on Thursday 8 November (kick-off 5:00pm local, 12:00am AEDT).

The top two teams from each group of the AFC U-19 Championship 2012 will progress to the knockout stage (quarter-finals) and the four winners of the quarter-finals will then play in the semi-finals with the winners advancing to the final.

The semi-finalists will also automatically qualify for the FIFA U-20 World Cup which will be held in Turkey in June/July 2013.