Finals fever swept across Valentine Sports Park as the National Youth Championships Boys’ tournament served up some exhilarating clashes.
After the group stages, the top two teams from each group were finally confirmed, with the top placed team in each group playing the second placed team in the other group, to determine who features in Friday’s Finals.
The duration of matches in the Semi-Finals were increased to 30-minute halves and each second counted as teams did everything they could to keep alive their dream of being crowned National Youth Championship 2023 winners.
Capital Football Wrap
There was a brace of draws on the final day for the under-16 team as a goal from Nicolas Pulciani saw the match with South Australia end 1-1, before the final game ended in a pulsating 2-2 stalemate with Tasmania. A second goal in two days from Riley Zsuzsa and a goal from Archie Varnes earned the draw. It was a tough day for the under-15 team who went down 0-2 to Victoria Blue and 0-4 to Victoria White.
Goals galore in Under 15s
QLD White (Group A, 1st) v NSW Metro White (Group B, 2nd)
The top scorers from both Group A and Group B put on a show for the crowd, however it was a hattrick to QLD White striker David Bolongi which secured his side a 3-2 victory and a place in the Under 15 Final.
After finishing top scorer in the group stages with five goals, Bolongi added another three to his National Youth Championships collection, while Jordan Graoroski scored both goals for NSW Metro Blue, adding to his tally of nine group stage goals.
It only took two minutes before Graoroski opened the scoring for the entertaining Semi-Final before passing the baton to Bolongi who equalized late in the first half.
With the scores locked at 1-all at the start of the second half, Bolongi’s pace was too much for the NSW Metro defence, slicing through to give QLD White the lead. Their advantage wouldn’t last long, with Graoroski firing the ball into the back of the net to bag his second of the match in the 44th minute.
But the deciding goal would come off the boot of Bolongi, showcasing his quick feet in a classy solo effort to secure his hattrick and give QLD White then eventual winning lead.
Western Australia (Group B, 1st) v Victoria Blue (Group A, 2nd)
Victoria Blue was too good for a valiant Western Australian side, advancing through to the Under 15 Final with a comfortable 3-0 victory.
The scoring was shared around the classy Victorian team, with goals to Julian Recchia, Alexander Houridis and Aaron Cartwright building the scoreline, while their defence also held up their end of the bargain finishing the match with a clean sheet.
It took 19 minutes before the deadlock was broken when Victoria Blue were awarded a penalty taken after raiding the Western Australia goal. Striker Julian Recchia stepped up and rather than opt for power, the National Youth Championships 2022 Player of the Tournament cheekily chipped the ball over the keeper for the opening goal.
Now with some wind in their sails, it was only five minutes later when Victoria Blue added their second thanks to Cartwright who guided the ball past the keeper as they headed into the sheds at half-time with a 2-0 lead.
The nail in the coffin came in the 43rd minute when Houridis slotted in the ball past the keeper to claim the three-goal victory.
Mate v Mate in Under 16s Semi-Finals
Victoria Blue (Pool A, 1st) v Victoria White (Pool B, 2nd)
It was a tense and physical affair when the two Victorian Under 16 teams met in the Semi-Finals, with Victoria Blue finishing the match on top, 2-0.
After winning six from six in the group stage, Victoria Blue maintained their unbeaten streak despite the best efforts of their counterparts who competed until the very last second.
The spirits of the Victorian contingent in the crowd were high as the teams entered the main field at Valentine Sports Park which finished under lights as the night trickled in.
There was little to split the two sides with neither taking a backwards and featuring plenty of clashes when competing for the ball.
The difference came through Theodore Limberis who was Victoria Blue’s game breaker. Limberis scored both of Blue’s goals putting away a rebound off keeper somehow finding a hole through a multitude of Victoria White defenders to sneak the ball into the goal.
NSW Metro White (Pool B, 1st) v NSW Metro Blue (Pool A, 2nd)
The two NSW Metro sides collided in the final Semi-Final of the Boys Tournament delivering an edge of your seat encounter which was ultimately won by NSW Metro White, 3-2.
Scores were locked 1-all with just 15-minutes remaining but a fast finishing NSW Metro White were able to slot a further two goals to secure their place in the Final.
Alaat Abdul-Rahman scored a screamer early in the match, launching a powerful strike into the top corner which the goalkeeper couldn’t do much about.
The match looked to be heading to penalties in the second half when NSW Metro Blue leveled the scored after George Kotronakis finished from a tight angle.
But only three minutes after, Meliwethu Nkomo from NSW Metro White produced a brilliant solo effort to retake the lead before a penalty completed by Meliwethu Nkomo secured the win for NSW Metro White their place in the Under 16 National Youth Championships Final.
Grand Final Fixtures Decided
The National Youth Champions of both the Under 15 and Under 16 divisions will be decided tomorrow with the Final Fixtures now confirmed.
After starting with 13 teams in both Age Groups, only two remain and have the chance to leave Valentine Sports Park on Friday afternoon with some silverware.
At 10:30am the Under 15’s Final will take place featuring Queensland White against Victoria Blue. Both sides are from Group A and faced each other in Round 2. Nothing could split the two teams with the match finishing locked at 4-all setting up a tantalising clash in the Final.
At 12:00pm the Under 16’s Final will kick-off between Victoria Blue and NSW Metro White who both finished first Group A and B respectively.
Once the final whistle has blown on the National Youth Championships 2023 Boys’ Tournament, the Official Closing Ceremony will take place where the Player of the Tournament and Goalkeeper of the Tournament will be announced.
Referees confirmed for Final Fixtures
The Match Officials for Friday’s Fixtures have been confirmed following their outstanding performance over the course of the tournament.
Michael Ouliaris will referee the Under 15 Final, assisted by Matthew Harris and James Knowlson with Emmitt Drinnnan the Fourth Official.
Jack Powers will referee the Under 16 Final, assisted by Alessandro Llana and Jackson Landy with Luca Ferroussat the Fourth Official.
Irrespective of where you live in Australia, don’t miss a minute of the National Youth Championships 2023 Boys’ Finals, with both to be streamed live via the Football Australia YouTube Channel.
Click HERE to watch live.