Degenek blasts back at Socceroos detractors

Socceroos defender Milos Degenek has fired back at the critics of Australia's controversial three-at-the-back formation, insisting the system "is not a problem".

Milos Degenek

Milos Degenek Source: AFP

The 3-2-4-1 configuration currently favoured by coach Ange Postecoglou has been scapegoated as the major factor in a stuttering finale to World Cup qualification, culminating in Australia facing the lottery of the play-offs to reach Russia 2018.

Tactics, along with some indifferent performances and Postecoglou's recent tinkering with his team, prompted ex-Socceroos Robbie Slater and Mark Bosnich to castigate Postecoglou, with Slater saying it was time for a new coach to be entrusted with piloting Australia through the play-offs.

Degenek, who plays for J.League side Yokohama F. Marinos, insisted, though, that the squad are resolutely behind Postecoglou, his tactics and the direction he's steering the Socceroos in.


The 23 year old, who played alongside Trent Sainsbury and Bailey Wright at the back in last week's 2-1 win over Thailand, was impassioned in his defense of Postecoglou's formula for success, despite the shrill voices claiming his players are struggling to adapt to the system.

"Look, I think the media is making a big deal out of it," he said

"For us, it's not a problem. We are professionals ... some of us have played three at the back for our clubs, some five, some four.

"I agree with what we are doing 100 per cent and as group we are behind the program.

"I have no difficulty with the formation. I think we are doing well and we are going to continue to improve. 

"What everybody else on the outside says, that's their opinion and they are entitled to that."

Degenek, who has 12 caps and has made 21 appearances for fifth-placed Yokohama in his debut season, believes it's all about perceptions and the public are finding it hard to embrace a system which is foreign to them.

"People in Australia are used to the Socceroos playing a 4-4-2 formation, which is all about just getting the ball up the field," he added.

"The boss is just trying to change something for the better of the game in our country and maybe some people are a little bit scared.

"We're all behind the boss and what he's trying to achieve. 

"We're going to keep pursuing it and hopefully the reward will be World Cup qualification.

"All the noise is coming from the outside, inside the camp we are just one big family all pulling in the same direction.

"What other people, say like ex-players for example, they have a right to voice their views but it doesn't affect the way we feel."

With Australia looking to end Syria's emotion-charged drive towards Russia when they meet on October 5 and 10 in the sudden-death showdown, Degenek declared the Socceroos would be ready to end the fairytale ride of the war-ravaged nation.

"We have a hard road ahead (with the fourth placed team from CONCACAF lying in wait if Australia beat Syria).

"But things happen for a reason. It's God's plan and he we have to follow that path.

"It's difficult for Syria after all they've been through as a nation.

"But it's quite difficult for us as well, coming from Australia which is not really a football country, where we've had to battle for recognition."

With just over a year left on his Yokohama contract, and playing regular football each week, the stopper believes leaving Germany's second tier for Japan has polished and enhanced his game.

"I feel I've improved as a player and a person," added Degenek. "Right now we have nine games left in the league and a big job ahead of us to qualify for the World Cup.

"On a personal side I am just grateful to be part of the national team. 

"A year or so ago, if someone told me I would be part of the  Confederations Cup squad and our World Cup qualifying campaign I would've told them they are kidding themselves. 

"But hard work has paid off for me, and I just want to keep doing more and more for my country."


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4 min read
Published 11 September 2017 at 7:24am
By Dave Lewis