Former Socceroos coach Pim Verbeek has painted a grim picture for the future of the national team and says there should be serious concern about about the quality of the next generation of players.
Verbeek, who led Australia to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, said replacing aging stars like Tim Cahill and Harry Kewell would be successor Holger Osieck’s biggest challenge as they build towards the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
But the Dutchman believes the talent pool may not be there and that it could take another generation for Australia to rebuild.
In an interview with Qatari sports website Doha Stadium Plus, Verbeek, now Morocco’s under 21s coach, said a dwindling youth talent pool was one of the reasons he did not stay in the job after the World Cup, along with the gruelling travel schedule.
“Working with the Australian national team is a really tough job because you’ve got to fly all over the world,” Verbeek said.
“Your players are in Europe, Asia and Australia. So I seriously got problems with jetlag. Physically, it was a tough job.
“Second, if you see the performance of their youth teams at the moment, it isn’t that encouraging.
“In the third round of the 2012 Olympic Games qualification, they (the Olyroos) played six games, but couldn’t score a single goal.
“If that’s the future of Australian football, then you would be seriously worried about that situation.
“That’s the kind of difference between the generations.
“The current crop of youngsters prefers to stay at home and play in the A-League, unlike in the past when the boys used to get to Europe in their teens and develop there.”
Asked about suggestions from Osieck that Australia’s young talent stocks were getting thin, Verbeek agreed.
“That was one of the things I always said when I was in Australia. But it’s a difficult thing to say because the people in Australia are very proud,” he said.
“They’re proud of the A-League. There’s nothing wrong with the league as such.
“… The A-League is OK and players like Alessandro Del Piero want to come there. But if you look at the quality and development of youngsters, that’s tough.
“I’m afraid, it’ll take at least a generation to change.”
Verbeek led the Socceroos from 2007 to 2010 and achieved strong results before Australia failed to progress beyond the group stage in South Africa.