After a World Cup tournament that saw the Socceroos exceed expectations, the mood around the national team was notably positive. But there are plenty of questions to be answered. Manager Ange Postecoglou was elected under a banner of ‘better football’, but with no concrete sign of that in Brazil, the Victorian has a limited time to implement his patented ‘Roarcelona’ style, if at all. After a fifth successive defeat and seven matches without a victory, the managerial honeymoon is about to end.
While some hailed a brand new style in Brazil under the new gaffer, there were others including myself who failed to see any significant change. In the World Cup, Ange put his tactical ideologies aside in order to preserve national pride. The crossing and fewer passes completed provide evidence of that. But three losses from three didn’t ring alarm bells for some pundits. Hence the familiar commiserative sentiments from overly positive types. Craig Foster’s blog summarised the performance as, “. . . two close and competitive matches where Australia surprised many and gained a high level of respect and one football lesson.” It’s the phrase ‘high level of respect’ that has a familiar sound of satisfaction in defeat, that concerns me. As Robbie Slater’s column in the Sunday Telegraph outlined today, punching above your weight and earning respect means nothing, unless combined with victory.
The Socceroos have a limited time in preparation for the Asian Cup in January, and if Ange plans to implement the ‘Roarcelona’ style in that short period, he puts Australia’s hopes in peril. Most alarming about a style revamp, is the timeline and ability to implement a football philosophy when your playing staff return to club outfits, that play in contrasting styles. Australia has a match against Saudi Arabia on Tuesday morning (5am AEST), and two listed for October against UAE and Qatar. These fixtures will provide evidence of the manager’s intentions. With Australia expected to win all of those matches, Ange could be tempted to take the style over substance approach.
Public expectation is high, and the Asian Cup presents a situation diametrically opposed to the 2014 World Cup. The pressure is on, and players shouldn’t feel compelled to play the ball out from the back if they’re not capable. Fortunately, Postecoglou’s Aussies have not mirrored his Brisbane Roar outfit. However, it’s quite likely that the Roarcelona style is part of the ‘Ange agenda’. With teams like Iran, whose style of pragmatism partnered with technical ability await, I’m crossing my fingers the manager puts style aside for now, and chooses trophies over ideology.