A tough introduction for Holger Osieck
They say you only get one chance to make a first impression, so what must Holger Osieck have thought after watching the Socceroos lose 2-0 to Slovenia on Thursday morning?
Australia were rusty in defence and lacklustre in attack, and Osieck must have slowly realised just how much work lays ahead of him to mould a new-look starting eleven into a cohesive unit.
The appointment of the German coach sparked a flurry of “Holger who?” headlines in Australia, a fact which did not go unnoticed by the ever watchful German media.
But even in his homeland Osieck remains a relative unknown, with German football writer Uli Hesse telling me that he virtually dropped off the radar after helping West Germany win Italia ’90 as an assitant to Franz Beckenbauer.
“His biggest claim to fame is that he was Beckenbauer’s assistant when we won the World Cup and then followed him to Marseille. He had a brief and unsuccessful stint at Bochum, then he went abroad and was rarely heard from again,” Hesse said.
Those of us with an eye on Japanese football certainly knew what Osieck was up to, and my friend Scott McIntyre wrote a wonderfully detailed piece for the Sydney Morning Herald on just how the strict disciplinarian lost the support of the Urawa Reds dressing room in 2007.
I remember seeing a forlorn Osieck in the press conference after Urawa were knocked out of the Club World Cup by Milan and thinking it was a surprise that the Reds didn’t sack him on the spot, after talismanic defender Marcus Tulio Tanaka and Brazilian striker Washington had both publicly slated the German – the latter going so far as to depart for Fluminense in a huff.
But it’s onwards and upwards for Osieck from here on in, and even if first impressions of the new coach were slightly underwhelming, it’s not hard to warm to the idea of him having a strong hand in youth development.
Anyone who caught Bruce Djite’s nervy performance yesterday is well aware that the Socceroos need to start bringing young players up to international standard, and with plenty of them plying their trade overseas and in the A-League, it will be fascinating to see just who Osieck picks in the build-up to the Asian Cup.
The continental championships have suddenly taken on a whole new dimension for the Socceroos.
While most of us would like to see them challenge for some silverware, there’s also a growing sense that the tournament really is the perfect opportunity to build for Brazil 2014, particularly with Osieck having signed on for the full four year cycle.
Whatever happens, the new coach will hope to see his team markedly improve on their performance from Thursday morning, even if most of the squad looked rusty given the lack of post-World Cup match action.
Plenty to do as Osieck gets set to criss-cross the globe then, but no one said coaching one of world football’s most remote outposts would be easy.
Just ask Pim Verbeek.
Mike Tuckerman is a Sydney-born journalist and lifelong football fan. After lengthy stints watching the beautiful game in Germany and Japan, he has settled in Brisbane and has been a Roar columnist since December 2008. Follow Mike on twitter @Mike_Tuckerman
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