One’s coached in the English Premier League; one’s coached at a World Cup and won numerous Australian trophies. The Socceroos versus China may be won on the pitch but from the dugout these two wily coaches will be pulling strings to engineer a famous win for their nation in Thursday’s knockout Asian Cup quarter-final at Brisbane Stadium.
Ange Postecoglou and Alain Perrin are two of the better credentialed coaches at the tournament so it’s no surprise their sides have reached the knockout stage.
The tactical battle and contrast of styles will be fascinating to watch, as well as just what 11 they will go with in the hot and steamy conditions on Brisbane’s bumpy pitch.
How does Postecoglou break down China’s organised defensive wall while keeping his own back-door firmly shut?
Can China deal with the aerial ability of Tim Cahill and the pace and power of Leckie and Kruse?
Interestingly, Perrin was once linked with the Sydney FC job and has coached Aussie player Nick Carle.
Will Perrin be known as the coach who beat the Socceroos on home soil? Or will Postecoglou’s men bounce back after their group stage loss to Korea Republic and storm into the semis?
Postecoglou – 49 (Born August 27, 1965)
Perrin – 58 (Born October 7, 1956)
Perrin undertook a pretty long apprenticeship before taking a senior managerial role. He spent almost a decade – including a stint at Arsene Wenger’s assistant at Nancy – as a youth and assistant coach before taking charge of Troyes in the French fourth division and taking them all the way to Ligue 1 with three promotions in six seasons.
Having helped the unfashionable club qualify for the Europe, he caught the attention of French giants Marseille and while he signed Didier Drogba to the club, success didn’t follow.
His impact at Portsmouth in 2005 was better, taking over with the club in serious relegation trouble and helping them avoid the drop. While it didn’t end well – he was sacked early the following season – his reputation didn’t diminish and he returned to France with Sochaux and then Lyon where he guided both clubs to silverware.
He would have learned a lot from his five year stint in middle east football and is using all his experience to perhaps be the man to help China reach their scary potential.
In 13 games in charge of China, Perrin has tasted defeat just once.
Athens-born Postecoglou might not have the same calibre of clubs on his resume but has enjoyed huge success almost everywhere he has managed.
He led South Melbourne too back-to-back NSL titles in the late 90s as well as seeing them take on the likes of Manchester United at the FIFA Club World Cup in 2000 (as a result of an Oceania Club Championship triumph a year earlier).
He really made his name in Australia as boss of Brisbane Roar FC. Postecoglou helped transform the club from an also-ran of the A-League to the most successful club in the league’s history.
His back-to-back championship winning success included an Australian sporting record 36-game unbeaten run playing the type of total football that had the team nicknamed “Roarcelona”.
It’s still early days in his international coaching career but after a difficult first 12 months, things are certainly looking up. An Asian Cup trophy on home soil would be a nice building block for this evolving side heading towards the start of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.
This is both men’s first appearance as manager at and Asian Cup. Perrin has made the perfect start with three wins from three matches while Postecoglou’s Socceroos won their first two games in a comfortable manner before losing their last match 1-0 to Korea Republic.
Postecoglou started his club coaching career in the old NSL at South Melbourne, in charge for four years at the club where he also spent all of his time as a player.
After a long stint as coach of Australia’s youth teams, he returned to club coaching with Panachaiki in Greece but was only there a year before returning to Australia to take charge of Brisbane Roar FC. It was here Postecoglou had enormous success, guiding the club to back-to-back Hyundai A-League championships.
He then had just over a season with Melbourne Victory before taking over the Socceroos job.
Frenchman Perrin started his top-flight managerial career in his home nation at Troyes with a reputation of being brilliant in youth development. It was there he coached Sydney FC’s Nick Carle, who has since raved about the French coach’s quality.
Perrin had stints at Marseille and Al Ain before taking over EPL club Portsmouth in 2005 and helping them avoid relegation (along the way he guided Pompey to a famous 4-1 demolition of local rivals Southampton, though he was sacked within his first year at the club).
Success followed at his next post back in France with Sochaux, guiding the club to the French Cup before joining Lyon in 2007 and taking them to the league and cup-double the next season.
He has spent the last five years in Asian football, working with three different Qatari clubs (Al-Khor), Al Gharafa and Umm Salal before winning the China post came along
Postecoglou has had a pretty clear approach right throughout his coaching career and hasn’t wavered since taking charge of the Socceroos. He wants his teams to be positive, pro-active and always looking for goals. Press high and play the game in their half is his mantra. Above all, be positive and back yourself.
While it hasn’t always led to results during this re-generation period of the national team, it’s thrilling to watch.
Postecoglou’s high-press, all-action style of game can be too much for opponents when they get it right – as we saw in the first two games against Kuwait and Oman – but difficult to apply for the full 90 minutes.
But rather than try and temper that to avoid getting hurt on the scoreboard when they “switch off”, Postecoglou is hell-bent on getting his side to the stage where they can see it out for the whole match.
Like Postecoglou, Perrin isn’t afraid to punt on youth, and has brought in a host of youngsters since taking the reins of the Chinese side last year. While not as gung-ho in his approach as the Socceroos boss, the Frenchman also prefers a flexible 4-3-3 system, although often with two “holding midfielders” as opposed to Australia’s one.
Perrin has always been a manager who wants his teams to play attractive football but has made tweaks along the way to suit the requirements of the modern game.
He’s built this Chinese side on a no-nonsense defence, which allows his creative, attacking players to be able to do their thing in the final third. While it’s not always the most eye-catching football from his side, it has been effective since he took charge of China.
He has given the side his tactical acumen to go with the other non-negotiables like team spirit, responsibility and work ethic.
Postecoglou took the Socceroos to the tournament in Brazil last year and went up against heavyweights Chile, Netherlands and Spain. While the young and inexperienced Australians performed admirably, they exited the group stage without a point.
The China job is Perrin’s first senior international gig so he has yet to have the opportunity to pit his wits at a World Cup. But he will hope he can continue his progress with China and guide them to Russia in 2018 when qualifying begins later this year.
Who knows, both nations could meet in World Cup qualifying.
The Socceroos will face China PR in the Quarter-Finals of the AFC Asian Cup at Brisbane Stadium on Thursday 22 January (8.30pm local kick off). Click here to purchase tickets.