The Finalists for the National Youth Championships 2023 Girls’ Tournament have been decided following an exciting day of Semi-Finals in Wollongong.
After four days of pulsating football, 22 teams from across Australia have been whittled down to only six who now have the chance to be crowned National Youth Champions.
The Finals will take place from 9:00am Friday, 13 October at WIN Stadium with the official closing ceremony of the National Youth Championships 2023 to take place following the last match.
Finals Fixtures Confirmed
Capital Football will face Queensland Silver in the Under 14 B Final at 9:00am before NSW Metro takes on Victoria in the Under 14 A Final at 10.20am.
Mirroring the Under 14 A Final is the Under 16 Final, which will also feature NSW Metro and Victoria as the final game of this year’s National Youth Championships at 11.40am.
All three Finals will take place at WIN Stadium with matches going straight to penalties if scores are tied after the allotted 60-minutes of play.
US Women’s Football Legend Watches On
There isn’t much April Heinrichs hasn’t seen over the course of her illustrious football career, from winning a FIFA Women’s World Cup in 1991 to claiming Gold at the Athens 2004 Olympics with the US Women’s National Team.
The lead of the FIFA Technical Study Group at a number of FIFA Women’s World Cups and icon of women’s football has landed on the shores of Wollongong this week to gain further insight into the future of Women’s Football in Australia.
“One of the best things you can do when you’re trying to learn about a country’s ecosystem is go closer to the grass,” Heinrichs explained.
“You can sit in rooms and talk to people and read documents, but when you get closer to the grass, you learn a little bit more.”
As a former player and manager of the US Women’s National team, before an eight-year role as the Director of the Women’s Youth Football Program at US Soccer, there aren’t many people as qualified as Heinrichs to evaluate up and coming young women’s footballers.
Fortunately for Australian Football, the report is promising.
“These girls are every bit as good as the 13-year-olds we have in the US. They’re every bit as good in terms of my scouts’ eye, so that’s been really great to see,” Heinrichs said.
“We’ve seen spectacular goals. I’ve also seen some really thoughtful attempts at passing final passes, balls in behind the back line, and balls running onto a player trying to make a run. You can see the thought and intent, so that’s been great, I’ve really enjoyed it.”
Pressing forward and attacking the net has been a common theme from teams during the National Youth Championships but Heinrichs would like to see a little more variety in the play styles.
“We probably have a little bit more diversity in terms of style of play. I’ve noticed here is the coaches tend to all go with the 4-3-3 formation.
“We’ve got a little more variety in the US on that, but in terms of the individual players, their skill set, their physiological attribute. Their willingness to use both feet, their willingness to take some risks. It’s very equitable.”
With players competing at the National Youth Championships from all corners of Australia, Heinrichs was impressed with each Member Federation’s talent level, suggesting Australia’s current Youth Program is working well.
“I really like what Football Australia can do with the Member federations is they can tailor programming. I understand some of the Member federations have these massive geographical lands where there are not a lot of players, while others have two or three teams at this tournament.
“So I like that the Member Federations support the overall objective of finding and identifying and then training more talented players, that’s a flexibility that not many countries have.”
Heinrichs’ footballing career has taken her all across the globe, witnessing many successful careers both from a player and manager perspective.
Her involvement in the US Youth Development program has built the platform for the US Women’s program to be global leader with the UNWST currently third in the world.
And after reflecting on what she’s seen at this year’s National Youth Championships, she believes Australia has all the tools to do the same.
“While Australia had an amazing FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 and clearly they will improve over the next four years, other countries are going to improve too.
“It’s clear you have a talent pool that’s quite competitive, and the nature of being able to afford to bring players together to develop your talent. You know there’s countries that can’t bring 22 teams together to play like this or don’t even have 22 teams.
“You have to pursue all the advantages that you have at this point and all of the new initiatives that you can think of. The future is definitely bright here in Australia.”
Goals Galore in Semi-Finals
The strength of the net was tested during the Semi Finals with plenty of goals being rocketed inside the posts.
The day opened with Capital Football comfortably progressing past NSW Country 6-1, who struggled to contain the pin-point passing and red-hot start from the Capital side.
Queensland Siver then became the second team to progress to the finals after they triumphed over the Invitational XI 2-0, following a dominant first half which gave the Invitational side few opportunities to get back into the game.
The opening stanza of the NSW Metro and Western Australia Under 14 A clash was evenly matched until NSW Metro scored three goals in the second half to run away with the victory.
Victoria then booked their spot in the Under 14 A Final with a rampant opening 20 minutes which saw three goals before sealing the match with a fourth goal in the second half.
CommBank Junior Matilda Sienna Dale scored two goals in the first five minutes of the NSW Metro and Northern NSW Under 16 Semi-Final to help guide NSW Metro to the Final.
A two-goal romp in the opening eight minutes of play helped Victoria secure passage to the Under 16 Final over South Australia in the last match of the day.