Renowned US youth development coach Tom Byer believes alarm bells should be ringing in Australia after the Young Matildas missed out on qualification for the 2020 U-20 Women’s World Cup in devastating fashion.
Byer has been at the forefront of football youth development across the US, Japan and China for three decades and is widely considered one of the premier youth coaches in Asia, credited by the likes of Shinji Kagawa and Aya Miyama.
While women’s football has been growing down under, and the Matildas have become more and more popular nationwide, Byer feels there are concerning signs for the next generation of female national team players.
The Aussie Under-20s finished in fourth place in Thailand last month at the AFC U-19 Women’s Championship, failing to secure a berth to next year’s tournament, after being smashed 9-1 in the third place match by South Korea.
In the same tournament the Young Matildas were pumped 7-0 by Japan and 5-1 by North Korea.
He predicts the likes of Australia and the United States could lose their traditional dominance in the women’s game in the years ahead.
“It’s the same thing in the United States as well,” he told The Women's Game.
“For many, many years a lot of countries weren’t involved in women’s football so there wasn’t a lot of competition there. But now a lot of these countries, especially in Europe, have closed the gap already on Australia, on the United States, on Brazil.
“The countries that have taken a giant leap forward are the ones where there’s already a football culture in place.
"Nowadays it’s not enough for girls to just play football, they have to watch it, they have to be marinated in it, surrounded in a football culture.
“In England, France, Belgium, Spain, Italy, these countries have taken a giant leap forward instead of an increment step, and that’s because those girls live in a football culture where they are surrounded by football.
“Both Australia and the United States, and Japan, have a lot of work cut out for them. I think Australia is going to struggle a bit.”
Byer said he wasn’t surprised to see the Young Matildas getting beaten by huge scores.
“When you look at what is happening with the Joeys and the Young Matildas, even though this team that is being billed as a strong team is getting crushed by a lot of the opponents,” he said.
“There’s certainly a lot of work that needs to be done.”