Ange Postecoglou has brought the curtain down on his tenure as Caltex Socceroos coach.
And what a ride it’s been.
He came into the job in unique circumstances.
Rarely, if ever, has a coach guided his nation to a World Cup and not been given the opportunity to take them to the tournament.
But back-to-back 6-0 losses to France and Brazil made Holger Osieck’s position untenable and it was Postecoglou who was shoulder-tapped to take the reins.
His first match in charge was a friendly against Costa Rica in Sydney, with Tim Cahill scoring the game’s only goal.
Four years and three days later, Postecoglou will leave Cahill and his fellow Caltex Socceroos in the hands of someone else for the climax of their 2018 World Cup journey.
There is a small parallel with Osieck in that Postecoglou too has guided Australia to a World Cup and also won’t be with them at the Big Show, but the similarity ends there.
He could have – if he’d wanted – taken Australia to Russia next year.
Unlike Osieck, he walks away completely on his own terms.
It’s a selfless decision.
The prospect of a World Cup – the pinnacle of the sport he’s devoted his life to – would have been impossible for most coaches to turn down.
He would have become the first man to coach the nation at two World Cups.
Instead, Postecoglou has given his heart and soul to getting Australia to Russia, but his investment ends here.
He spoke of the toll it has taken on him professionally and personally.
He talked of a heavy heart as he brought the curtain down.
Looking back four years, it was an inauspicious start as coach.
After that first win over Costa Rica, Australia lost six and drew one of their next seven matches including three defeats at the 2014 World Cup, albeit in a very difficult group.
But upon his return from Brazil, Postecoglou set about planning for what would become his greatest triumph as national boss.
The 2015 Asian Cup in Australia became his sole focus and despite a limited build-up, the Caltex Socceroos arrived at the start of the tournament with a game plan and team culture firmly entrenched.
Postecoglou led the side on a wonderful three-week rollercoaster which had its climax in front of 76,000 fans at Sydney’s Olympic Stadium.
South Korea – who had beaten Australia in pool play – were defeated 2-1 in extra-time with James Troisi’s winner widely celebrated and enjoyed.
Ange’s Australia were Asian Cup champions.
The next World Cup qualification cycle quickly arrived and while the first phase was easily negotiated, a succession of drawn matches in the final qualification group eventually saw Australia finish third, feeding them into four extra matches in order to punch their ticket to Russia.
In testing conditions, Syria were overcome, as were Honduras and a fourth straight World Cup appearance was secured.
But that’ll be all for Ange.
The final whistle which signalled Australia’s two-leg victory over Honduras will also be the final whistle of Postecoglou’s tenure as coach.
It’s almost fitting he leaves on the cusp of a milestone, having been coach for 49 matches.
He’ll have no regard for bringing up his 50.
It would mean nothing to him.
He probably didn’t even know.
Just as he was at Brisbane Roar, he’s driven by performances, not statistics.
His advocacy of results being a by-product of the way his team plays has been unwavering.
In the face of a furnace of ferocious feedback to his significant formation change halfway through Australia’s 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign, he remain utterly steadfast in his belief.
And it turns out he was right.
He said he would get Australia to the 2018 World Cup and he has.
He said he would play a certain way and he did.
He said he would leave on his own terms and he does.
And he does so with a legacy others would be proud to have alongside their name.
But knowing Ange, he won’t think too much about that.
Source : Socceroos Website