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No more Socceroos coaches with ''L-Plates''

Pim Verbeek in his time as Socceroos coach. AAP Image/Julian Smith
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15th October, 2013
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The coaching credentials required to achieve Asian World Cup Qualification and Asian Cup success compared to those needed to succeed in the FIFA World Cup finals are poles apart.

This key ingredient seems missing in much of the current intense and sometimes jingoistic conversations across the nation, while FFA ponders a replacement for the hapless Holger Osieck.

The limitations at the highest international level of the likeable Holger and his more controversial predecessor, Pim Verbeek, have been there for all to see.

Thankfully Holger’s inadequacies have been rectified soon after the Asian qualifiers, unlike that long wait to the 2010 World Cup Finals, to experience that 4-0 German drubbing in Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium, before Pim was exposed.

In both cases the FFA made the correct choice by engaging coaches with the appropriate Asian regional experience to tackle the non-trivial challenge of World Cup qualification.

But, what it did not recognise, is that a World Cup Finals national team manager‘s job description is an entirely different proposition.

While both had been World Cup Finals’ assistants, neither had had valued Finals head coach experience, not to mention been successful at it.

In Osieck’s case, his highest qualification was under Franz Beckenbauer in West Germany’s Italia 90 win, whereas Verbeek achieved the position of the South Korean World Cup Finals’ support act, beneath Guus Hiddink in 2002 and Dick Advocaat in 2006.

So with all due respect for the sentimental support behind the aspiring A-League candidates, Postecoglou, Arnold and co, Australian football just can’t afford to have anyone on their “L Plates” guiding its most precious asset on world sport’s preeminent stage.

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It clearly needs someone who has “been there and done that.”

The World Cup Finals are just too important an event for the beautiful game’s ongoing profile, development and future to attempt an experiment with an unproven national team manager, wherever he may come from.

What is required is a tactical and man management expert who will effectively utilise the available talent pool, by getting it to play above itself, much like “Aussie Guus” did so successfully in Germany in 2006.

A leader with a profile that is a cut above Verbeeck and Osieck, but who can get the best out of working with players of a lower technical ability, than what is found in the top 10 nations.

Someone who can adapt to the adolescent development phase Australian football is in at the moment.

A time when it is grappling to rid itself of its British-inspired, physical “triathlon-with-a -ball” past and the need to transform to a more astute, technical, tactical and more beautiful footballing playing nation.

This appointment is no easy task for FFA and is some ways a much easier proposition for the “big” footballing nations.

Unlike Australia, those “big” countries (Italy, Germany, Brazil, Argentina et al) can more easily attract a myriad of candidates of the highest calibre to take them all the way through their respective inter-Continental competitions (Copa America or Euro Nations Cups), World Cup Qualification matches and the World Cup Finals.

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Ideally FFA have stated that it try find someone to carry on with the job from Brazil through to the Australian-hosted Asian Cup competition in 2015.

But this objective may not be practically possible.

The World Cup Finals’ management post should, however, remain the priority.

It may require a solution whereby an assistant is appointed to work under the head coach for the World Cup Finals, with the intent of taking over the top role for the Asian Cup.

While it is often used as a benchmark in the region, Japan Football Association (JFA) may also have not have got their head coach appointment quite right.

After WC2010 in South Africa, it hired the experienced Italian Serie A manager, Alberto Zaccheroni, who in turn re-generated the Blue Samurai squad (unlike Holger did for Australia) and won both the Asian and East Asian Cups.

However, with all that, he did not manage to win a game at the recent Confederations Cup in Brazil.

Zaccheroni has since been accused by some critics of attempting to have the team perform at a tactical level above its capability and experience.

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This is one of the reasons given for their lack of success at the Confederations Cup despite having such technically gifted players.

With all his top European club experience, Zaccheroni has never coached a national team before, not to mention worked with the growing pains of an emerging football nation.

For FFA, there is a lesson to be learned there somewhere from JFA’s experience, while it goes through the current recruitment process.

I remember saying when the Socceroos made the second round of the World Cup Finals in 2006.

“We need to savour the moment, as it may not happen again for a long while yet.”