Holger’s Spiel: A One-way Ticket

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It was our destiny. Remember, 2006? It’s history. Australia and the Socceroos have qualified for three consecutive FIFA World Cups. Read that back. It’s now a reality. It took us 32 years to qualify once (for only the second time), and now, we’re there again riding the crest of the wave from Sydney to Rio – what a truly epic achievement!

Football Federation Australia (FFA) has invested heavily in the Socceroos brand, and the game. It’s not come without numerous and complex challenges. One of which, has been coaching. More specifically, implementing a National Curriculum to lay the foundations for future generations. But, what of our coaching?

Australian football has seen a cultural transformation in recent years. Guus Hiddink left his mark on our nation and with it followed the development of a coaching model based on methodologies used throughout Europe. FFA has spruiked the grounds tirelessly to sell concepts like Small-Sided Football (SSF) and the 1-4-3-3 Formation Rationale. I believe this to be excellent work on the part of the governing body: moving away from direct instruction to games-based coaching, and a consistent system, is more in line with developmental football.

With all of this hard work now in the bag, my question is: why is national team coach, Holger Osieck, employed to play a different system to the one mandated by FFA? It’s a rational question to posit, isn’t it?

After all, at least seven of the so-called Golden Generation of Socceroos will retire post-Brazil 2014 – immortals in their own right. However, our Olyroos, Young Socceroos and Joeys face the daunting task of qualifying for Russia 2018 playing curriculum football. It doesn’t make sense. Have we gone back to thinking and planning for the short-term?

Aurelio Vidmar, Paul Okon and Alistair Edwards are developing our younger national team players to a system. This is productive work. Building on Hiddink and Pim Verbeek’s 4-3-3 would be logical. We’re now coaching our grassroots to play out from the back, keep possession, move effectively off the ball, look for the line of pass, and attack with creativity: to problem-solve and make decisions on their own.

What I’ve seen of Osieck’s football leaves more questions than answers: long-balls, counter-attacking and giving-up a lot of possession. Against top opposition? No. Emerging (not established) teams from Asia. I give credit to these nations for the way in which they develop their players. Let’s be frank, a team of 21-year-olds from Iraq came to Sydney last night and almost took away a point. According to the pundits, we were going to beat them easily, 3-0 or 3-1.

The media discourse on Verbeek in the days and weeks following our exit from South Africa 2010 was unforgiving. He lacked Aussie ticker, he lined-up against Germany and surrendered from the outset, he lost the dressing room … and the list went on.

I’m well aware that some will say that Osieck got us to Brazil, so he deserves to go. However, this is our last real shot – for what could be some time – to progress out of the group and showcase our football on the world stage. Are Osieck’s tactics good enough? Would the way we’ve been playing against teams in Asia be competitive when faced with opposition from Europe and South America, or even Africa?

These are legitimate concerns. The type we’re mature enough to ask, then debate.

We need a tactical leader and consistency across our national teams. Ange Postecoglou proved the curriculum works with Brisbane Roar. Why not our Socceroos?

Osieck’s taking us to Brazil, but what are we bringing back?