Sport

Socceroos coach preached the Australian way - now it's time to live up to it

Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou fronts the media.
Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou fronts the media. ALEX MURRAY

SOCCER: When Ange Postecoglou took on the Socceroos job he said he wanted the national team to play in the "Australian Way".

That is, roll up their sleeves and take on the world and do whatever it takes to get the job done.

Reports suggest the Socceroos' boss plans to walk away even if Australia find its way past Honduras and books place at a fourth consecutive World Cup.

Walking away when the going gets tough - that isn't the "Australian Way". Ange, go to the World Cup and finish the job, or go now.

The bombshell ensures an unsettled period in the lead-up to the two-legged playoff with Honduras in November, and then it leaves just seven months, and as few as five matches, for a new manager to prepare for the World Cup in Russia.

It's far from ideal and places a bigger spotlight on an Australian side that has been underwhelming so far this qualification campaign.

Recent results have shown that qualification is not easy, even for more established football heavyweights.

But the most disappointing element of the Ange era is the fact this side has had ample opportunities to get the job done.

 

Socceroos players celebrate their extra-time win over Syria.
Socceroos players celebrate their extra-time win over Syria. DEAN LEWINS

Ange may have wanted the "Australian way", but the hallmark of his time in the job is his team's penchant for doing things the hard way.

The 2014 World Cup saw no points, three defeats and nine goals conceded against Spain, Netherlands and Chile. Against Chile and the Netherlands we should have taken points home, but again we failed to finish the job. It's been a feature under Ange.

Even in the Asian Cup triumph in 2015, the Socceroos had their stumbles. They finished second in their group after losing 1-0 to South Korea, even though Australia only needed a draw to secure top spot.

Postecoglou's selections that night saw many scratching their heads. He left Tim Cahill, Robbie Kruse and Tommy Oar on the bench. He gambled and we nearly paid the price.

It threw us into the same side of the draw as the Japanese, who fortunately were upset by the United Arab Emirates in the quarter-finals.

Even in the final, the Socceroos made hard work of it, conceding late after seemingly having the Asian Cup sewn up as South Korea forced the game into extra-time. We prevailed, but again, we made it harder than it needed to be.

This campaign has seen more of the same. We struggled against Thailand, home and away, were outclassed by Japan in Saitama and had to go to extra-time to see off Syria.

Something is wrong, and it is plain for all to see. We criticise and want answers but Ange does not like giving them to us.

Postecoglou can coach. He has taken sides to multiple championships and now international triumphs. His Brisbane Roar side created Australian sporting history with a 36-game unbeaten run. That doesn't just happen.

 

Some of Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou's decision have puzzled observers.
Some of Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou's decision have puzzled observers. JOE CASTRO

Good coaches do not impart a football philosophy on a side, but look at the side they have, and cater a philosophy. This is Postecoglou's first failing. Tactically, we have seen his naivety on the international scene, whether he likes it or not.

Points dropped against Iraq due to a change in formation ultimately cost us direct qualification from our group. We have managed just one clean sheet in our past 11 matches.

Ange has never had to qualify for a major tournament. He landed the Socceroos job prior to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and he did not have to fight to the 2015 Asian Cup, as Australia was host.

Ange needs to realise that his want to take the game to the opposition and be aggressive doesn't work everywhere. There's moments where you need to be reserved and take a point. There's others where you will have to battle for anything and times when you can look to play teams off the park.

The Pim Verbeek and Holger Osieck campaigns were measured - ruthless at home, yet cautious on the road. Both got the job done in relative comfort. At times Ange's philosophy has been downright arrogant, and we've paid the price.

Postecoglou's squad selections have been baffling at times also. Here we are, some two years into qualification, yet Ange continues to tinker with his squad. His defensive stocks have been in constant transformation throughout the campaign and it seems he has still not settled on a preferred side.

He has used 59 players so far in his time as Socceroos boss. He has introduced players who have played well, only to remove them the following match. Some never to be seen again.

Recent call-ups Nikita Rukavysta and Matt Jurman, hadn't featured at all this campaign until the do-or-die clash with Syria.

 

Honduras will pose a real threat to the Socceroos when they meet.
Honduras will pose a real threat to the Socceroos when they meet. JOSE VALLE

Australian football is not without its issues currently and the blame can't be squarely placed at the feet of Ange alone. He hasn't been helped by some of his stars making ridiculous career moves, and promising youngsters stunting their development by chasing big money overseas, to ultimately sit on the sideline and return to the A-League, poorer for it.

But throughout qualification Ange has sheltered his players. He has taken the heat at times, asking the media to judge him and not his squad. Yet, now Ange seems to have his back up at the criticism.

When Osieck was manager, Postecoglou worked for Fox Sports as an analyst on Socceroo matches. He would give his expertise, analysis and criticism of Osieck's tactics, as was his job description. Now, other media personnel are doing the same and Ange does not like it.

Things are certainly not rosy but that is what comes with international football and the high stakes that a World Cup campaign brings - not to mention the millions of dollars qualification provides to financially underpin the local game.

We're all behind the Socceroos, but if we turn a blind eye to glaring issues, we'll be watching the World Cup on TV with our American friends.

If the Socceroos think it's going to be any easier against Honduras, well, think again.

The Central American nation is speedy, physical and technical. You couple that with the fact that they have qualified for the last two World Cups, and we're up against it.

Throwing your toys out of the cot and quitting before the job is done isn't the "Australian Way".

Don't walk away when the going gets tough. You and this side are better than that. It's time to prove it.

News Corp Australia

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