Feature

Postecoglou deserves more respect - and time to finish the job

Memo Australian football family: take a deep breath. And another one. The past week has seen our emotions soar - when UAE defeated Saudi Arabia and we only needed a win against Japan - before nosediving as the Green Falcons finished off the Samurai Blue 1-0 to secure their place in the 2018 FIFA World Cup at our expense.

Ange Postecoglou

Ange Postecoglou looks on during Australia's 2-1 win over Thailand Source: Getty Images

The door to the Russia 2018 party has been slammed shut. Now we are like the fellow on a standby ticket at the airport: suitcases packed and nowhere to go.

Seven days ago, we thought we’d arrive in Moscow sipping champagne in first class. How the wheel has turned.

That emotional rollercoaster was bound to leave us feeling more than a little jaded. When Australia woke to news of the Saudi’s triumph on Wednesday morning, the mob wanted blood. It would soothe our primal urges to see a scapegoat anointed. And that, naturally, was the manager.

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It is so easy to point the finger at Ange Postecoglou, as many have done.

The fact that everyone is so mad isn’t a bad thing – it shows we care. It shows we’re willing to have a vigorous debate about the most important position in the sport and not just swallow the party line.

 


To all those who want to go for the jugular, I won’t deny your emotional response to what has happened. I think it’s natural to be angry. But this is not a time for the red mist. We’ve got enough of that in Australian football.

A few days after the event should give us all the clarity we need to think about the situation a little bit more. And the more you look at it with clear eyes, the more it becomes clear that Postecoglou has a mandate to finish the job he started back in 2013.

He has already taken the Socceroos to one World Cup and won plaudits there for our playing style. A year later, he also won the AFC Asian Cup.

In this round of World Cup qualifying, the Socceroos only lost once, and that was against the region’s best team, on their home deck, while we missed our best player. Mitigating circumstances? Possibly.

And should we have done better against Thailand? Probably. Though with 45 shots, it’s hard to see what more the team could have done. They hit the woodwork three times. The threw the kitchen sink and the sofa at the visitors. Football is sometimes like that. It’s why we love it. 

If Fahad Al-Muwallad’s shot hit the post, Australia would have qualified with two points to spare. The champagne would have been flowing over breakfast and 'mastermind' Ange would have been hailed by all and sundry. Alas, these fine margins can wreak havoc with the best laid plans.
Suddenly, because we didn’t qualify directly, we’re seeing holes. Everywhere. The back three is a disaster. The midfield plays too many short passes that only go sideways. Our wing-backs don’t overlap at the right times. The front third isn’t clinical enough. The goalkeeper gets his positioning wrong. And so on and so on.

Who is to blame for all that? The coach, of course. But had we had an inch or two more luck in this campaign, we might have gone through on top and unbeaten.

Had we drew with Japan, that’s exactly where we’d be right now. And we’d all be talking a very different game about our World Cup-bound heroes.

And so this is why we need to keep some perspective on all that is flying around right now. Yes, mistakes were made during this qualifying. Yes, we’re entitled to question the coach. Yes, we’re allowed to want more.

But right now, the best option for the job is Postecoglou. I believe we will defeat Syria over two legs and – provided USA qualify automatically – either of Panama or Honduras.



It’s important to remember that Postecoglou was handed a seriously tough brief when he took charge. First was to usher out the veteran generation he inherited, second was to change the way the national team played, third was to win the Asian Cup and fourth was to make the World Cup.

So far, he’s successfully done the first three, and the fourth is still a possibility. He’s done it with a group of players that would get roasted by the Golden Generation, too.

Ange may be a little stubborn. He may give the media nothing. He may seem stroppy as hell. But don’t think for a moment that he doesn’t care or he isn’t trying. And these players trust him implicitly - which will be worth something in the coming months.

We all wanted him to get this job because he’d earned the right to give it his best shot. With this group of players – in one of the toughest Asian qualification groups seen in years – I doubt anyone, anywhere would have done much better.


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4 min read
Published 7 September 2017 at 7:28pm
By Sebastian Hassett