It was rumoured and now it’s the reality for the Socceroos. Ange Postecoglou has quit as coach just seven days after qualifying for the FIFA World Cup. So, the obvious question now is who should replace him?
The World Cup kicks off on June 15, 2018. That’s just under eight months away, so it gives David Gallop and his team little time to find a new coach who will be able to fit straight into the structure and pick up where Postecoglou left off.
It’s not the first time Australia have been in a rush to find a coach. Qualification for the 2006 campaign saw Guus Hiddink take over less than four months before the Socceroos’ successful play-off against Uruguay.
He then took Australia to the knockout stage for the first time in the nation’s history.
The 2014 road to the Cup was also a shaky one after Holger Osieck was sacked by the FFA eight months out, with Postecoglou being thrust into the role. In a group of death, Australia did better than expected.
So, it can be done, but who is the right option?
The Sydney FC boss seems to be the frontrunner for the position. Plenty are calling for another Australian coach to take over from Postecoglou, and Arnold has had plenty of experience with the national team.
Despite being a club coach since 2010, spending time at the Central Coast Mariners and Vegalta Sendai before moving to Sydney, Arnold worked with Hiddink at the 2006 World Cup, then took over the head job for the Socceroos.
After six years of being an Australian assistant, he took over as acting coach after Hiddink left and stayed in the position until the end of the 2007 Asian Cup. He was then replaced by Pim Verbeek, but continued as an assistant coach and took on a role with the under 23s side.
It’s little wonder the man known as ‘Arnie’ is supposedly leading the race for the job.
Following the trend of signing an Australian coach to replace Postecoglou, Ante Milic’s name has been thrown into the ring by many sources as a key challenger to Arnold.
The 43-year-old would be able to bring a younger edge to the team and given he is a current assistant for the Socceroos, he will have knowledge about the systems Postecoglou was running. The systems which enabled Australia to beat Syria and Honduras to qualify for the biggest football shown on earth.
The problem for Milicic is he has never held a top line coaching role. He has had assistant gigs at Melbourne Heart and Western Sydney Wanderers, but never a head coaching role, and for his first gig to be a World Cup would be a serious risk for the FFA.
Gianni de Biasi
De Biasi had a long club coaching career before taking over Albania in 2011. In both the 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers and Euro 2016, Albania punched well above their weight under the leadership of the Italian.
It’s thought he could get similarly good results out of the Socceroos, even with a short time frame to get used to the system.
The Italian confirmed that he was approached by the FFA in July, so he’s certainly on the radar.
Bert van Marwijk
Van Marwijk had his first foray into national team coaching with the Netherlands in 2008, spending four years in charge. In the 2010 World Cup, he took the Netherlands all the way to the final, losing to Spain in extra-time.
He then moved to Saudi Arabia, guiding them to a World Cup qualification for 2018. They were one of the teams who stopped the Socceroos from gaining automatic qualification alongside Japan.
However, the Dutchman quit just days after their last qualifying match and is now a serious option for the FFA.
Luiz Felipe Scolari
The 69-year-old is another World Cup winner, having guided Brazil to victory in 2002. His resume is a long one, having begun his coaching career in 1982.
In that time, he took Brazil to victory at the FIFA Confederations Cup during 2013, Portugal to the final of Euro 2004 and won three straight Chinese Super League titles with Guangzhou Evergrande before recently leaving the club.
There is no question he is a good option, but again, it could come down to the question of whether the FFA wants a domestic or international coach. Scolari’s asking price could also be a sticking point.
In charge of Melbourne Victory since 2013, Muscat has had plenty of success in the Victorian capital. Muscat was an assistant under Postecoglou in Melbourne and has been head coach ever since the now-former Australian boss left the club.
In his first full season, Muscat guided the Victory to the premiers plate and championship in the same year and almost outcoached Arnold to win the A-League last season, only going down in a dramatic penalty shootout in the final.
Muscat also has experience with the Australian squad, having been called up by Postecoglou to serve as an assistant at the 2017 Confederations Cup.
It’s probably a bit of a stretch to say Popovic might come back to coach the Socceroos. After spending five years in charge of the Western Sydney Wanderers, he sensationally quit to take up a job with Turkish Süper Lig club Karabükspor in the days leading up to the current A-League season.
While he has plenty of experience and spent more than a decade playing in the national setup during his career, the chance of him coming back from Turkey to take up a job with the Socceroos seems next to nothing.
Still, he hasn’t had the smoothest of starts with Karabükspor and his record at the Wanderers was superb. He had three grand final appearances in four years and an Asian Champions League victory. That’s an impressive resume, and one the FFA would be best to consider.
It wouldn’t be an article looking at potential Socceroos managers without mentioning Hiddink. But could the Dutchman actually take over the job for Australia again? It seems unlikely, given he is now in his 70s, but it’s certainly an option.
As already discussed, Hiddink got Australia to the knockout stage of the 2006 Cup with limited preparation time and has been successful since with stints in charge of Turkey, the Netherlands and Chelsea.
It would likely be only a short term gig for Hiddink, given his age and the need to then begin building to the next qualification campaign, but the primary focus must be on performance in Russia, and Hiddink could be the man to get the best out of the Socceroos.
Roarers, who do you think should take over the Socceroos in the run to Russia? Drop a comment below and let us know.