The Roar
The Roar


Lessons from crazy man Hiddink

Chelsea's Guus Hiddink, centre gestures as he watches his team play Juventus during their Champions League round of 16 first leg soccer match at Chelsea's Stamford Bridge stadium in London, Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2009. Chelsea won the match 1-0. AP Photo/Carlo Baroncini
Roar Pro
9th September, 2013
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This current Australian team, so different in philosophy to the one we saw in Germany 2006, could do with a dose of Guus Hiddink’s thinking.

I remember wondering what Hiddink could have been thinking when I heard who he had picked in the 2006 World Cup against Japan.

Never mind that Jason Culina and Luke Wilkshire, both central midfielders at the time, were operating as wing-backs. Never mind that Brett Emerton, a natural wide player, was in central midfield.

The selection that made me wonder if the so-called master tactician was not in fact a crack-pot was Scott Chipperfield.

Chipperfield was in the Socceroos best XI, but who would have thought fielding him as a left-sided centre-back in a back three was a good idea? The guy had spent most of his career playing as a left winger.

Now he was alongside Lucas Neill and Craig Moore in the most important game Australia had played for over 30 years.

If it were not for the last ten minutes, perhaps the game against Japan would be remembered as the day Hiddink’s gambles did not pay off. Perhaps Hiddink got lucky.

I take a different view.


The reason Hiddink picked Chipperfield was because he could cover the ground. Neill was not quick. Moore was slower than Neill. Hiddink recognised Australia’s defence needed pace.

Not many other managers would have had the guts to pick a bloke out of position in such a big game, but Hiddink wanted Australia to be able to press the opposition and, to do that, he could not afford to have a slow defence.

If it was slow, pressuring high-up the ground would have resulted in Japan cutting through a high defensive line and no doubt scoring more than the one they managed to put in the back of the net that night.

Australia would have had to defend deep if Chipperfield was not at the back and they would not have been able to press.

The reason I bring this all up is because right now Australia’s defence is, as everybody knows, painfully slow.

Neill and Ognenovski in the team means the Socceroos have to defend deep. Neither of them want to be caught up the ground because they know they cannot get back if they need to.

That forces the two holders deep as they try and protect the space in front of the defence. The wingers, number ten and striker cannot press the opposition with any purpose, because the holders are too deep to support them.


There is no problem necessarily with Australia playing deep, soaking up pressure, and trying to hurt sides on the break. Holger Osciek may think that is Australia’s best option heading into the World Cup.

I believe the Socceroos are at their best when they are pressuring the opposition all over the field, though, as they did in 2006.

Australian footballers have an attacking mentality, even if their technique is sometimes lacking. Guus Hiddink took that view and it worked for him, though again some could argue he rode is luck.

Others could argue that luck tends to follow the team that makes the game; the one that presses and attacks rather than the one that sits back.

For Australia to be comfortable pressing, something left-field needs to be done about the centre of defence.

Could Mile Jedinak, a tall defensive midfielder, be the one to move back and form a partnership with Neill? Maybe Mark Milligan could do the job if given the opportunity.

The back-line needs pace. If Hiddink’s taught Australian football anything it’s that we should value speed in defence.