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Maybe Bert van Marwijk is the best coach for the Socceroos after all?

Socceroos coach Bert van Marwijk. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Expert
2nd June, 2018
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2284 Reads

Can the Socceroos win the World Cup? Perhaps they ought to be considered contenders after putting four goals past an outmatched Czech Republic.

I am, of course, joking about Australia being considered as tournament contenders.

But why is that any time something positive happens for the Socceroos, our first reaction is to tear it down and think something negative instead?

Why are we so conditioned to automatically think the worst about the national team?

Perhaps that’s one area of the game where having a new coach in Bert van Marwijk might help.

Ange Postecoglou might have revolutionised the Socceroos had he taken the team to the World Cup finals and played a 3-4-1-2 formation in Russia.

But there’s no point denying certain aspects of his regime had become toxic – including his relationship with certain elements within the mainstream media.

And while some were quick to proclaim van Marwijk nothing more than a stop-gap measure here for a quick pay cheque, maybe that’s exactly what the Socceroos need?

It’s a moot point anyway. There should be serious questions asked of Football Federation Australia’s role in Postecoglou’s decision to resign – but resign he did.

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And now the Socceroos have an interim coach in charge who behaves as though he couldn’t care less about a single thing the FFA says or does.

So why shouldn’t we start to believe that van Marwijk knows what he’s doing?

He’s certainly tightened up Australia’s back four. After a disastrous performance in van Marwijk’s first game in charge, the Socceroos have now gone two games without conceding.

Handing Trent Sainsbury the armband in Mile Jedinak’s absence suggests van Marwijk is happy to pin his defensive hopes on the on-loan Grasshoppers man.

And playing Mark Milligan alongside him – where Milligan’s ability to read the game is better utilised than in midfield where he’s hampered by a lack of pace – could prove a masterstroke in Russia.

Then there was the use of Andrew Nabbout up front. Sure, the Czech defending was ordinary, but the Urawa Reds attacker still had plenty to do for his goal.

And the fact he was able to finish with such pace and power suggests Nabbout could be a useful addition to the squad – even if he doesn’t start in Russia.

But what van Marwijk mostly brings – regardless of who he chooses for his final 23-man squad – is a sense of self-belief.

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Had Postecoglou stayed the course, maybe he would have done so too.

But having had no prior experience of Australian football and its internecine politics, van Marwijk seems to have simply shrugged his shoulders, rolled up his sleeves and got on with the job of picking the best possible squad for the finals.

Mathew Leckie played like a man transformed against the Czechs – scoring twice – without having to worry about defensive duties.

Matthew Leckie

(AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

And Mat Ryan seemed to solidify his position as Australia’s number one goalkeeper – not that it was in any doubt – by playing the full ninety minutes.

Even the fact teenage tyro Daniel Arzani was only handed a six-minute cameo seemed to suggest van Marwijk knows exactly who is in contention for a starring role in Russia.

And that probably spells bad news for Fran Karacic, James Troisi, Nikita Rukavytsya and possibly even Josh Brillante.

But maybe – despite another luckless showing up front in a national team jersey – Jamie Maclaren will earn a stay of execution, given the question marks over Tomi Juric’s fitness.

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It goes without saying that it would be unwise to read too much into a performance against a Czech side with nothing to play for on neutral territory.

But then it’s probably also worth acknowledging that van Marwijk seems like the last coach on earth to actually to do that.

France will provide the sternest test imaginable. Everything so far suggests van Marwijk is up for the challenge.