October 12, 2013 – 11:16AM
SENIOR SPORTS REPORTER WITH THE AGE
The anger and disappointment has gone, to be replaced now by simple disdain, contempt and a measure of pity.
Australia is becoming a joke on the world soccer stage, shipping goals by the minute, its limitations brutally exposed as it flounders from one incompetent display to another when pitched against high class opposition.
Passing on directions: Australian coach Holger Osieck. Photo: Getty Images
If this is the best Australia can manage, then soccer fans, and anyone with a passing interest in the performance of the country’s national teams, had better dig in for a long, dark period of despair.
Yes, Holger Osieck, the now ex-coach, has to take a large share of the blame. He was the man in charge, he was handsomely paid, and he had to carry the can and has paid with his job.
But the players also have to put their hands up for two spineless performances that have damaged the reputation of the national team abroad and the status of soccer in Australia.
Aurelio Vidmar will take charge of the Socceroos for their friendly against Canada on Tuesday following the sacking of national team boss Holger Osieck in the the wake of the 6-0 humiliation in Paris.
FFA chief executive David Gallop travelled to the French capital and acted ruthlessly and swiftly after the heavy defeat early Saturday morning.
The heavy defeat comes barely a month after the capitulation by the same scoreline against Brazil.
FFA officials are seeking guidance from leading European coaches – believed to include Gérard Houllier – as to who should replace Osieck.
How many travel agents will be fielding calls cancelling tickets for the World Cup in Brazil on Monday morning as fans calculate the price of a journey to South America with the guarantee of disappointment when they get there.
Reaching the World Cup is a fine achievement, but in the sort of state Australia is in now they risk being an embarrassment to the fine sporting traditions of the nation. It’s not a rebuild that the Socceroos require. The edifice of the national team needs to be razed to the ground with a complete redesign and reconstruction commissioned as soon as possible.
If the first stage of finding a cure is to recognise that you are in fact ill, then any doubts over the diagnosis should have been completely dispelled by now following the 6-0 thrashing at the hands of Brazil in September and the destruction by a similar scoreline in Paris on Saturday morning.
We can rant and rave all we want, slag the coaching staff and howl into the early morning light as the humiliation unfolds on our television screens.
The simple fact is that Australia is too old, too slow and simply not good enough. And the country is no longer producing enough quality players to replenish the stocks at the required rate. The past two performances have exposed a team playing with little heart, fight or spirit _ qualities that, even when Australia was a battling, developing soccer nation, it could always rely on to at least make it competitive against high quality opposition.
The writing has been on the wall for a very long time. The only ”positive” that may come out of it is that the boosterism, which has been so prevalent in recent years, may finally now stop and the realisation that Australia is simply not that good may be admitted.
Australia struggled and only just made it to the World Cup through the Asian group, getting past what was basically Iraq’s under 20 team with a late goal in the final game to seal qualification in the dying moments of a two year campaign.
Holger Osieck authored his own demise with these two performances. The German can stiffly proclaim that he satisfied his contractual requirements by guiding the team to the World Cup, but that was not enough. He was also charged with rebuilding the squad, preparing it not just to be competitive in Brazil but also to host the Asian Cup six months later, in January 2015. Osieck’s concentration on qualification at the expense of everything else meant he stuck too long with the old guard of players.
A sense of entitlement and a culture of complacency has grown up within the establishment of the Australian team: one FFA official told me how concerned he was about a poor attitude and a sense of arrogance within the playing group more than a year ago when Australia lost a crucial World Cup qualifier in Amman against Jordan, and he believed that the problems were deep seated and major surgery would be needed to fix them.
Guus Hiddink made it clear in June 2006, when the Socceroos went down to Italy in the round of 16 in Germany, that a total rebuild would be necessary before the 2010 World Cup. He believed that even then many of his critical players were ageing and would need to be replaced if the team was to be competitive in South Africa.
Seven years later, far too many of those players who played such an heroic role in that campaign are still there when they should not be. Pim Verbeek, Osieck’s predecessor, should, to a lesser extent, have begun the process. Osieck should certainly have been working on the remake and remodel that Hiddink declared was so necessary right from the beginning of his tenure. But he didn’t.
Sure, the players coming through might not look to have the talent of the golden generation, but if they had been brought through, given a chance and taught to play as a team then it is highly unlikely they would have capitulated in the manner the current Australian side is doing.
In the southern hemisphere June and July, when the World Cup will be staged, are the months when the weather closes in and darkness descends. On the evidence of the last two games, for soccer fans it will surely be a winter of discontent.
The Sydney Morning Herald