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

Mike Tuckerman Columnist

By Mike Tuckerman, Mike Tuckerman is a Roar Expert

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    Socceroos coach Bert van Marwijk. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

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    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    Mike Tuckerman
    Mike Tuckerman

    Mike Tuckerman is a Sydney-born journalist and lifelong football fan. After lengthy stints watching the beautiful game in Germany and Japan, he settled in Brisbane, and has been a leading Roar football columnist since December 2008.

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    The Crowd Says (70)

    • June 3rd 2018 @ 7:35am
      jamesb said | June 3rd 2018 @ 7:35am | ! Report

      Hi Mike.

      You must’ve had inside knowledge on the four players missing out. The 23 man squad is confirmed. Karacic, Brilliante, Troisi and Rukavytsya have all missed the cut. Maclaren and Arzani make it.

      • June 3rd 2018 @ 8:04am
        Fadida said | June 3rd 2018 @ 8:04am | ! Report

        They are the cuts I certainly would have made. Thrilled to have Arzani in, and happy for Maclaren.
        Troisi was freewheeling, relying on past deeds.

      • Roar Guru

        June 3rd 2018 @ 8:22am
        Griffo said | June 3rd 2018 @ 8:22am | ! Report

        Good for Maclaren who may be cover for Jurić.

        Happy that Arzani has made it, along with both Petratos and Nabbout.

        Troisi and Rukavytsya out is good news.

        Brilliant now cut twice at final cull after missing out in Brazil.

        Kračić maybe surplus to requirements. Wonder if Arnold will keep tabs on him? Possible end to international career before it has begun.

        • Roar Guru

          June 3rd 2018 @ 1:52pm
          Cousin Claudio said | June 3rd 2018 @ 1:52pm | ! Report

          Being a good striker scoring goals is 90% confidence.

          Nabbout is a confidence player and the game and goal against Czechs would have given him a lot of confidence.

          Looking forward to Nabbout causing the opposition a few problems and surprises in the World Cup.

      • June 3rd 2018 @ 9:28am
        lunchboxexpert said | June 3rd 2018 @ 9:28am | ! Report

        I support the inclusion of Maclaren, his game against the Czech Republic was enough for me to show that not including him in the initial 26man squad was perhaps a small over sight (or maybe it wasn’t). He repeatedly put himself in positions to cause damage to the defense and only went away goaless because of a bit of bad luck and an inability of his team mates to connect the ball to him at the right moment. Perhaps a bit more time with his teammates will see this connection improve. If the connection does improve then I have Maclaren as the player in the squad most likely to score, in open play, against a first class defence. The time for smoke and mirrors (if that ever what is was) is over, Maclaren to start against Hungry in preparation for the most important game against France.

        On the question of van Marwijk, I think it is a little early to tell. Some promising signs, yes but regardless we will all know in the next 25 days.

      • Columnist

        June 3rd 2018 @ 11:09am
        Mike Tuckerman said | June 3rd 2018 @ 11:09am | ! Report

        You’ve got to get up pretty early in the morning to get anything past me, jamesb! Although I must admit I didn’t quite realise the squad would be announced at the crack of dawn today.

        It will be interesting to see what happens to Fran Karacic from here on in. He’ll probably end up playing for Croatia after all.

        • June 3rd 2018 @ 2:08pm
          Fadida said | June 3rd 2018 @ 2:08pm | ! Report

          The question none of us can answer Mike is, is he actually any good though? You’d think that if he didn’t knock BVM socks off he won’t be good enough for Croatia?

          Probably end up being the next Cafu!

        • June 3rd 2018 @ 3:39pm
          Josh said | June 3rd 2018 @ 3:39pm | ! Report

          With no inside knowledge on the form of the players and no visibility of Karacic as a player in general – I’m wondering if the call on Karacic might also be due (in part or in full) to cold feet on the player’s part. Time will tell.

          • Columnist

            June 3rd 2018 @ 9:04pm
            Mike Tuckerman said | June 3rd 2018 @ 9:04pm | ! Report

            I suspect the fact Karacic doesn’t speak English was also a contributing factor.

          • June 3rd 2018 @ 9:58pm
            lunchboxexpert said | June 3rd 2018 @ 9:58pm | ! Report

            I don’t think it’s worth speculating on the reasons why. Playing for a national team for a person of dual nationality must involve all types of difficult and sensitive questions not only on the players part but also on the teams part. Best left alone and hope Karacic ultimately ends up playing for the national team he wants to play for.

            What I think is worth speculating on is why does a national coach look to talent that has been born and raised outside Australia for the national team. The answers to that question will probably lead you to the reasons why Ange struggled to find the Australian talent to play the style of Football that could win Australia a world cup. And I am sure the answer to this question has less to do with “Football Development Programs” (which I think leave a lot to be desired) than the way we damage our young with exposure to toxins, poor quality food, electronic devices, the medical system, etc, etc. Ultimately our performance at the world cup is telling me that Australia is not only a poor nursery for football talent but ultimately a poor nursery for our young full stop.

            • June 3rd 2018 @ 11:19pm
              Fadida said | June 3rd 2018 @ 11:19pm | ! Report

              You should work for the tourism department lunchbox. Such a glowing endorsement for the country.

              • June 3rd 2018 @ 11:58pm
                lunchboxexpert said | June 3rd 2018 @ 11:58pm | ! Report


                Thats not my intention. I just want people to think a bit more deeply about why Ange failed to build the team he wanted, Because, as I stated, if Australia wants a team that is going to make a world cup quarter final, a semi final or a final, this is the question we need to find answers too.

      • Roar Rookie

        June 3rd 2018 @ 2:35pm
        The Phantom Commissioner said | June 3rd 2018 @ 2:35pm | ! Report

        Would love for Arzani to get 45 mins against Hungary. I think BVM will start with the same 11 as time is against him as far as tinkering goes but he’ll need to give players he plans on bringing off the bench a good run out so hopefully Arzanis on of them.

    • June 3rd 2018 @ 8:08am
      Onside said | June 3rd 2018 @ 8:08am | ! Report

      Players more comfortable with Bertball than Angeball, because Bertball is their default club system .

      • June 3rd 2018 @ 9:54am
        lunchboxexpert said | June 3rd 2018 @ 9:54am | ! Report

        I’m trying to work out whether its a case of there is something about Dutch Football coaches that bring the best in Australian Footballers or perhaps its that Australian Footballers bring out the best in a Dutch Footbal coach. Or maybe its down to something completely different? Regardless its pretty clear to me, that in general, Dutch Football coaches are a great fit for an Australian Football team.

      • Roar Guru

        June 3rd 2018 @ 1:13pm
        Cousin Claudio said | June 3rd 2018 @ 1:13pm | ! Report

        Try keeping the ball off France for 90 minutes playing with 3 defenders and see how you’d go.

        Not quite our time to win a world cup . . . but its coming.

        • June 3rd 2018 @ 1:42pm
          nearpost said | June 3rd 2018 @ 1:42pm | ! Report

          yep, we did that against Germany last year. We werr hammered, and hammered early

    • June 3rd 2018 @ 8:17am
      Fadida said | June 3rd 2018 @ 8:17am | ! Report

      I have to again question how FFA can be blamed for AP’s resignation? He resigned because he hit his ceiling, jumping before we got belted in the finals with his ridiculous formations and selection of out of form and out of position players. Jumping before his reputation was ruined and he was no longer an attractive propositon. He was a game away from being sacked, making a real balls up of a straightforward group. FFA gave him the resources and facilities he wanted, including very expensive flights to gain an advantage.

      Likewise he got the easiest of rides from the media. No coach of any developed football nation would have got so little pressure from a faltering campaign. He had it very easy. Can we stop playing the Ange is a victim card.

      That aside! (!) I enjoyed the article. I’ll reserve judgement in BVM until the real games come, but there are signs that we have a coach who will pick a formation based on our strengths, and a game plan that considers the opposition. What we won’t hopefully see is the whole team caught upfield in the first 5 minutes of the France game, which would have happened for sure if Ange hadn’t been so cruelly hounded out of the job (sarcasm).

      • Roar Rookie

        June 3rd 2018 @ 8:40am
        Waz said | June 3rd 2018 @ 8:40am | ! Report

        It’s because we haven’t got the full story but this, being Aussie football, we’re getting hints at the truth.

        I don’t know Ange and have never spoken to him other than as a Roar fan … but those that do know him and have spoken to him on this topic say there is a different version of events.

        However we, the great unwashed football fan, will have to wait until someone publishes a book on the subject lol.

        • Columnist

          June 3rd 2018 @ 11:10am
          Mike Tuckerman said | June 3rd 2018 @ 11:10am | ! Report

          Where there’s smoke, there’s fire…

          • June 3rd 2018 @ 11:57am
            AGO74 said | June 3rd 2018 @ 11:57am | ! Report

            Even if there were personality differences the FFA never undermined his requests as his Socceroo team has never been spared any resource.

            Further Ange has always said he only listens to those he respects and ignores everyone else (or some such similar words) so if he didn’t respect FFA (which I don’t doubt) he would have just ignored them anyway. He’s a very strong-willed and single minded person as shown by his determination to stay with the back 3 and his comments that the only plan B was to play Plan A better. He would never have left unless it was his decision.

            I think this whole FFA forcing hin out and/or making his position untenable is just another example of trying to blame FFA for everything when in reality the truth is closer to what Fadida notes.

            • June 3rd 2018 @ 10:12pm
              lunchboxexpert said | June 3rd 2018 @ 10:12pm | ! Report

              Maybe Ange’s approach will ultimately find better success in Japan, a country that is renound for looking after, protecting and nuturing their young (unlike Australia). This world cup won’t tell us if Ange’s approach has had an impact in Japan but we will probably have an idea at the next one.

          • June 3rd 2018 @ 2:11pm
            Fadida said | June 3rd 2018 @ 2:11pm | ! Report

            That’s true Mike, if you’re a 12 years old who believes cliches.

            Slow and steady wins the race? Ask Usain Bolt if I’ve beaten him yet?!

        • June 4th 2018 @ 11:04am
          Caltex & SBS support Australian Football said | June 4th 2018 @ 11:04am | ! Report

          Tell Stephen Lowy, I’m in my office… Ange, should not have resigned, but should have waited for the inevitable. Lowy and Postecoglou were at odds over the PFA footballer’s demands… The book is coming!

        • June 4th 2018 @ 12:13pm
          reuster75 said | June 4th 2018 @ 12:13pm | ! Report

          AP gave an interview to the world football show on the BBC world service recently in which he touched on his exit and that surprisingly he’d made the decision about 12 moths ago and that a lot of his frustration was around the fact all so many people seemed to care about was qualifying for qualifying’s sake ( Have also heard Jack Reilly ex FFA director in an interview with Santo Cilauro mention that it was known behind the scenes for a while Graham Arnold was going to replace Ange, which ties in with AP’s comments to BBC. I remember an interview AP gave to ABC’s offsiders just after the Honduras matches and he hinted there were things that contributed to his decision he felt he couldn’t reveal at that time. So agreed it’s perfectly reasonable to think there was more to the story than meets the eye, and until such time as someone speaks the whole truth about what happened this type of speculation will continue.

    • Roar Rookie

      June 3rd 2018 @ 8:18am
      Waz said | June 3rd 2018 @ 8:18am | ! Report

      Bert is the man to lead us to the WC, it’s just a pity he wasn’t given a bit longer aftwerwarfs to de a really good job (say to the Asian Cup?). But looking forward to seeing how we go now – I think he’s got the squad right.

      And several HAL clubs will get a cash windfall from the player participation pool, City will get around $300k for Arzani and even Roar will get a little over $100k for Maclaren and Pet-Rat.™_neutral.pdf

      • Roar Guru

        June 3rd 2018 @ 8:31am
        Griffo said | June 3rd 2018 @ 8:31am | ! Report

        I wondered why BvM wasn’t employed until after Asian Cup.

        It’s like Arnold would have been lost if not offered the role, or BvM was asking for too much for that role, too.

        • Roar Rookie

          June 3rd 2018 @ 8:37am
          Waz said | June 3rd 2018 @ 8:37am | ! Report

          I suspect it’s a combination of those two – Bert too expensive and Arnie might be lost to the Socceroos for ever (can’t see any downside in that last one mind you).

          • June 3rd 2018 @ 10:34am
            AGO74 said | June 3rd 2018 @ 10:34am | ! Report

            Can I ask who is the alternative to Arnie? Yeah I get it – he ain’t the most likeable bloke but who is the genuine alternative?

            Further, its interesting because if Bert gets results playing a compact, counter attacking style in Russia he will be rightly lauded.

            Even if Bert doesn’t get the results people clearly based on comments here see and generally agree with the approach of playing to the strengths of the national team as opposed to the idealistic methods that Ange employed in the second half of his tenure.

            Apparently all of sydneys success under Arnie has been based on employing a similar compact, counter attacking football (I personally don’t subscribe to this narrow view of Sydney’s football). Even if sydneys football is as simple as the perception it delivered incredible results yet Arnie still gets rubbished.

            • Roar Rookie

              June 3rd 2018 @ 1:21pm
              Waz said | June 3rd 2018 @ 1:21pm | ! Report

              In terms of alternatives that are Australian? None that I would be comfortable with – Arnie is the stand out for me there.

              International wise there are better candidates but that’s where we run into cost issues.

              • June 4th 2018 @ 12:20pm
                reuster75 said | June 4th 2018 @ 12:20pm | ! Report

                It also gets down to what direction do we want to take as a nation in terms of playing style, development etc and what our ultimate goal is (i.e. do we want to aim to winning the world cup or is our goal just to qualify?) This conversation needs to take place before appointing a coach but in Australia we don’t seem to want to have this type of conversation. So as the FFA were determined that AP’s successor was Australian then GA is the best available Australian coach. As he wasn’t available until after the a-league season finished the FFA appointed BVM for the world cup as in their opinion he was the best coach available for the world cup only.

      • June 3rd 2018 @ 9:27am
        AGO74 said | June 3rd 2018 @ 9:27am | ! Report

        $1m for six months would equate to $2m for 12 months (roughly). Massive investment for a cash strapped organisation. Conversely, maybe Bert only wanted the World Cup?

        • Roar Guru

          June 3rd 2018 @ 9:55am
          Griffo said | June 3rd 2018 @ 9:55am | ! Report

          ‘Only the World Cup’ seems likely as well, and perhaps that was as much as what happened with BvM experience with the Saudis as perhaps being ready to retire. Pim Verbeek has said this is his last World Cup.

          Still if he is enjoying all that is layed out for him now, maybe he would change his mind if given the choice?

          I think the FFA wanted Arnold regardless of other candidates – reading between the lines of Sydney FC not wanting to part with him too early at end of season -and- another Aussie coach looks good – and BvM, including World Cup fee, was asking too much (and perhaps didn’t want another full World Cup cycle)…

        • Roar Guru

          June 3rd 2018 @ 1:23pm
          Cousin Claudio said | June 3rd 2018 @ 1:23pm | ! Report

          Aussie Bert’s entourage is getting $2M for 5 months work + $1M bonus for getting through first round.
          He wanted about $5M a year to continue as head coach of Saudis.

          GA will be on about $1.5M + bonuses when he takes over.

          Yokohama Ange wanted big pay rise to $4M to stay as Footballroos head coach and left because FFA wouldn’t pay it.
          He then cites “family reasons” for leaving, even though he left his family in Melbourne to go to Japan for $4M a year, within a couple of weeks of resigning from Oz.

          • June 3rd 2018 @ 4:44pm
            :Lucky Eddie said | June 3rd 2018 @ 4:44pm | ! Report

            How true. Surely people can see through big Ange in that it’s all about his ego and money. Leaving due to family responsibilities, after collecting cheque for qualifying, then leaves the family and bolts to Japan for a few years. The only thing that saved him was a free kick that hit the post.

          • June 3rd 2018 @ 9:16pm
            lunchboxexpert said | June 3rd 2018 @ 9:16pm | ! Report

            In about six hours time after Peru beat Saudi Arabia, I suspect that the Saudi’s may well be wishing they paid that price.

            It may turn out that Aussie Bert is a person who knows his own value but I am also sure he would be very happy to be away from the stresses that must be the lot of a Football Coach of a Persian Gulf/Middle East team.

          • June 4th 2018 @ 1:03pm
            reuster75 said | June 4th 2018 @ 1:03pm | ! Report

            Have you got proof of what you say as they are pretty big claims to make about why AP left? AP has publicly said one of the reasons for leaving was his frustration at the inability of people in the game in Australia to concentrate on the big picture and only focus on the narrow goal of qualifying for Russia.

            • June 4th 2018 @ 1:56pm
              Melange said | June 4th 2018 @ 1:56pm | ! Report

              Not too many who make comments like theirs pay too much heed to truth reuster

              • June 4th 2018 @ 2:47pm
                Fadida said | June 4th 2018 @ 2:47pm | ! Report

                I must have missed the press release when the truth came out? As far as I’m aware it’s all speculation.

                What I do know was that Ange stated family reasons for his leaving, among others. He understandably wanted to spend more time with them, which he couldn’t do traveling the world.

                Then he moved to Japan and left them behind.

    • June 3rd 2018 @ 8:24am
      AGO74 said | June 3rd 2018 @ 8:24am | ! Report

      I was generally very happy with the Ange coaching of our team until he had his Road to Damascus moment and put in place a system our players never adapted to and never really had the skill set to successfully play. His sour relationship in the end with the media (ie questioning it) was a by-product of it.

      I have no doubt that Berts coaching is a much more comfortable – if slightly conservative – default position for the team. Play to the teams strengths and keep it simple. You will generally find a very happy team if that occurs in any sport.

      Well done on your squad selections too – a reprieve for McLarem I think given the continued uncertainty with Juric injury at the expense of (most likely) Brillante.

      • Roar Guru

        June 3rd 2018 @ 8:36am
        Griffo said | June 3rd 2018 @ 8:36am | ! Report

        It’s possible Brilliante and Kračić are just surplus to certain positions well covered (right back and defensive midfield).

        Generally happy with the final 23 selections.

        • Roar Guru

          June 3rd 2018 @ 1:38pm
          Cousin Claudio said | June 3rd 2018 @ 1:38pm | ! Report

          Looks like they were only there as cover for injuries during training camp.

          Aussie Bert had his team picked before they landed in Turkey, he gave them no game time against Czechs.

      • June 3rd 2018 @ 9:06am
        Fadida said | June 3rd 2018 @ 9:06am | ! Report

        Agree on Ange. I was a huge fan before he disappeared up his own clacker

    • June 3rd 2018 @ 8:54am
      SquareBall said | June 3rd 2018 @ 8:54am | ! Report

      It’s official: We now have a WC squad and a coach we need to get behind and the signs are encouraging.

      The AP era, whether you liked it or not, is now history….. move on, people.

      • June 3rd 2018 @ 5:47pm
        Lionheart said | June 3rd 2018 @ 5:47pm | ! Report

        yep, great comment

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