Ange Postecoglou may become the first Socceroos manager to fail to qualify for the World Cup since Australia joined the Asian Football Confederation. The 52 year old has Australia jammed in a dire situation where the national team will need to beat Syria in a two legged play-off before most likely facing Panama in the same format. The manager risks destroying his own legacy in club football and sending Australia back to the dark ages of international football isolation.
In 2015 Ange Postecoglou steered Australia to victory in the Asian Cup on home soil. In a tournament whose theme was “60 minutes, don’t delay, play!” Australia bullied their way to a first ever major continental title, without meeting rivals Japan, and at a time when Asian soccer was at a low ebb (as noted in Explore Football one eve of 2014 World Cup). With claims that the Socceroos were now playing a thoroughly entertaining brand of football, Postecoglou was idolised by the same shameless media who engineered his ascendancy to the role. Their hero worshipping could be part of the reason we are in the mess we’re currently in.
Postecoglou has rarely seen criticism since taking the job prior to the 2014 World Cup where an experimental squad failed to win a game and conceded 3 goals in every match. Reflecting on the manner in which previous managers Pim Verbeek of Holland and Holger Osieck of Germany were treated, I’m convinced it was nothing short of racism. Now with an Australian in charge the likes of David Davutovic and Andy Harper (Postecoglou’s biographer) are amongst a conga line of others queueing up to honour the dear leader. Davutovic’s glowing praise for Postecoglou in October 2013 was an early indicator of things to come.
Now the Herald Sun ‘journalist’ is chief in charge of the ‘don’t talk bad about Ange brigade’. Davutovic devoted an entire column to his beloved Ange and the majority of the word count was spent firing volleys at Robbie Slater and Mark Bosnich who dared to talk bad about the prophet. Davutovic typed, “. . . comparisons with Holger Osieck and Pim Verbeek are almost insulting considering the incumbent’s 40-year contribution to Australian football.” So Davutovic logic (or bias if we’re honest) says that if you’ve contributed to the local game you’re better suited than outsiders.
Meanwhile, the same journalist claimed Bosnich was off target claiming that ‘angry Ange’ was using the Socceroos as a kind of laboratory experiment. In arguing for Postecoglou, “. . . boldness is part of his DNA,” Davutovic reinforced Bosnich’s point that the current manager is risking everything for the glory of his own aesthetic crusade. And it’s this obsession with aesthetics in Australian soccer right now that is infuriating.
Organised football has existed for more than 140 years, and over that time people have developed tactics for almost every situation. It seems though that the autocrat in charge of the Socceroos doesn’t care about that. There is no Plan B, and disregard the fact that the players are less adept at playing his preferred style then their opponents at times.
Ange Postecoglou has made a mess of this World Cup Qualification campaign. He is the first to require a play-off in the AFC era and he has proven himself to be the most arrogant manager to take charge of the team in living memory. The Australian was able to use a formula at Brisbane Roar that won him silverware and accolades, but the national team has proven to be a very ‘different kettle of fish’. Postecoglou must clean up this mess if he is to go on and carry out his personal dream of managing in Europe again.