Young Socceroos coach Paul Okon has praised 16-year-old goalscorer Daniel De Silva, saying he looked neither at age nor club when he selected his XI for the clash against Colombia
As the adage goes, good enough is old enough, and it is a belief Paul Okon used to fine effect in the Young Socceroos 1-1 draw with Colombia on Saturday.
Despite Trabzon's stifling conditions, 16-year-old Daniel De Silva showed glimpses of just how important he can be to the future of the Australian game with an impressive performance.
The Young Socceroos' coach made an inspired move by handing the youngest player in the tournament a start, and his faith was repaid.
"We know Daniel's qualities and what he can bring to the team. He's got a bit of freedom to express himself, and we know he can create," Okon said after the match.
"We've never looked at birth dates, and what club you play for, and Daniel stepped up."
Defensive midfielders Josh Brillante and Jackson Irvine had trouble tracking the runs of Colombian talisman Juan Quintero in the opening 15 minutes, but recovered quickly after Paul Izzo withstood the initial barrage.
As Irvine shifted deeper, it allowed De Silva freedom to create, providing support to the likes of wide midfielders Connor Pain and Andrew Hoole.
Hoole and De Silva combined for a stunning reward, and - despite Colombian goalkeeper Cristian Bonilla’s poor effort in goal - it was richly deserved for the Perth Glory midfielder.
"My face lit up when I saw it go in. I could have had another a few minutes later, unfortunately, but that's football," De Silva said.
"It was a great opportunity for me to start out there and I wanted to prove that I belonged. I owe it to the team, because we all put in a great performance."
Nevertheless, Australia's ability to go forward was built on the fact they were compact and kept their shape in defence.
During the week in camp, Okon and assistant Milan Blagojevic stressed the importance of clamping down centrally as Colombia – and in particular Quintero - moved forward.
Save for one instance in the second half, where Australia were indeed made to pay through Jhon Cordoba's goal, it was a game plan that stifled Colombia, and a clear example of a coaching staff that had done its homework.
Less can be said for Colombia.
"It definitely seems that way. They left the field pretty upset, thinking prior to the game that they were going to walk all over us," Blagojevic told Goal Australia.
"They were quoted as saying that we were just a physical side, but the boys can take a lot of positives out of this."
After Turkey's 3-0 win against El Salvador, the Young Socceroos[ second game looks a must-win against the latter for progression into the second phase.
"We can turn our attentions to El Salvador, a good opponent. People are saying this is the game Australia's going to win easily. We're not having any of that," Okon explained.
"We need to put in a similar performance [against El Salvador], and if we can do that we're confident we can win."