Australia pulls out of youth tournament

Exclusive: Paul Okon is taking a different approach to preparing for a key event next month, as he seeks to make up for recent disappointments

Australia has withdrawn from the AFF Under-19 Youth Championship as the Young Socceroos coaching staff respond to the team's failure to qualify for this year's FIFA Under-20 World Cup.

The AFF U-19 Youth Championship, which has been held annually since 2005, will take place in Laos between August 22 and September 4.

The timing of this year's event was intended to serve as preparation for the more significant AFC U-19 Championship qualification tournament, which begins on September 28 and is a key first step on the road to the 2017 FIFA Under-20 World Cup.

Australia's Young Socceroos failed to qualify for this year's U-20 World Cup in New Zealand.

Paul Okon, the head coach of Young Socceroos, described last year's AFF U-19 Youth Championship as a valuable yardstick for measuring the progress of his players.

“This is another opportunity for us to get more international match experience against competitive opposition in the lead up to the AFC U-19 Championship,” Okon said in August 2014

“From these matches we will be able to assess the level of preparedness of each player.

“At this stage no player is assured as position in the final squad for the AFC U-19 Championship and their performance at this tournament will be an important factor when it comes to selection time."

Australia lost to both Japan and Vietnam at the event, before failing to get out of their group at the subsequent AFC U-19 Championship, costing the Young Socceroos a place on the big stage in New Zealand.

And it appears that chastening experience may have prompted a change in approach from Football Federation Australia, who last month appointed Darren Davies, a member of Melbourne Victory's A-League title-winning coaching staff, as Okon's new assistant.

Thailand Under-19 coach Nattapol Teepasuwan this week claimed his team would be forced to alter their approach to the AFF U-19 Youth Championship due to Australia pulling out.

'We'll have to adjust our preparations, as Australia decided to withdraw, our first match in Laos won't be as scheduled," he said.

And FFA on Wednesday confirmed Okon's team would not be attending the event.

"Team management has taken a different strategy to prepare for the AFC U-19 Championship Qualifiers," a spokesperson said.