Milicic 'delighted' with Australia's win over Syria
Australian U23 Men’s National Team head coach Ante Milicic admitted he was ‘delighted’ with his side’s first-up win over Syria at the AFC U23 Championships in China.
A brace from Adelaide United striker George Blackwood and a first-half header from Bruce Kamau earned Australia a crucial 3-1 win in Kunshan.
“We’re obviously delighted to start the game with scoring first. I think it gives this young group of ours a lot of confidence,” Milicic said at the post-match press conference.
“Leading into that was winning the first game against what is a very difficult opponent. We knew that before the game. We showed them a lot of respect.
“It’s an opponent a lot of our boys aren’t used to playing against. That kind of style – very aggressive, direct at times as well.
“It was a good challenge for us. Delighted with the three points but at the same time, we’ve copped a couple of injuries which is a little bit of a sour note for us.
“But moving forward we’ll reflect on the game, we’ll now reflect on the game. There’s still a lot to work on and we look forward to preparing for Vietnam.”
Central Coast Mariners playmaker Daniel De Silva was a standout through the contest for Australia, setting up Blackwood’s opener and playing a hand in Kamau doubling the advantage.
Milicic hailed the 20-year-old’s performance post-match and praised his resilience following an injury-riddled run at club level.
“I don’t like to speak about individuals but it’s quite obvious for everyone to see that he’s something special,” Milicic said.
“He’s done so much work to get his body right to play continuously this season with his club form.
“Over the last few years we’ve followed him closely with the national team and he hasn’t had a consistent run of game time where he’s been due to injuries.
“Credit to him. We’ve had him once with the Socceroos in camp but he’s a player who hasn’t made his debut yet for the Socceroos.
“He’s really looking forward to a big tournament and to have a big year with his club.”
In a blow for Australia, Bruce Kamau and Milislav Popovic were both forced from the field with injury complaints and are in doubt for Sunday’s clash with Vietnam.
Milicic said it was disappointing for the duo but acknowledged his intention to rotate his squad throughout the tournament.
“For us, it’s very important that we rotate these players as much as possible,” he said.
“Not only because there’s two days rest between each game but also because for Australian players, they need this international exposure.
“They need to play against these different types of Asian teams. That’s what we intend to do. “