Time for Postecoglou's Socceroos to raise the bar

Glorious failures do not sit comfortably with Australia's highly driven coach Ange Postecoglou.


The Socceroos face a big year Source: Getty Images

Ever since he was given the job in 2013 of delivering the Socceroos from the shambles left behind by his predecessor Holger Osieck, Postecoglou has adopted a bloodyminded approach towards raising the level of the national team.

Winning is the prime objective but it's not enough for Postecoglou: it's got to be done in style.

In a short time he has managed to give the Socceroos a more positive and creative identity that yielded a satisfactory performance at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil and a much acclaimed triumph at the 2015 AFC Asian Cup in Australia.

The time has come, however, for the Socceroos to raise the bar another notch and not be content anymore by giving a good account of themselves against top opposition but by aiming for tangible results on the game's biggest stages.

Postecoglou has often expressed an unshakeable belief in Australian football and our players' ability that is sometimes perceived as mere bravado or even arrogance.

He therefore will expect the Socceroos to qualify for their fourth straight World Cup in style and will fancy his side's chances of reaching the semi-finals of the eight-team 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia in June.

And if we know Postecoglou well enough we should realise that he will not be satisfied with just another 'positive performance' at Russia 2018 unless it translates into a spot in the last 16.

Many pundits were purring over Australia's adventurous football in the second half of the World Cup match against Chile and in the game against the Netherlands but Postecoglou was never going to do any cartwheels after his team had suffered three defeats, albeit against top quality opposition (Australia also lost 3-0 to holders Spain).

Performances delight the purist but results are what matter for the perfectionist, which is Postecoglou to a tee.

For this reason 2017 is shaping as a critical year in the development process of our national team.

After a disjointed display in Bangkok in November when they were lucky to escape with a 2-2 draw against spirited Thailand, the Socceroos face a crowded calendar that should show in no uncertain way where they are at.
Postecoglou's men have three World Cup qualifiers coming up next.

Australia and the United Arab Emirates are currently a point behind joint leaders Saudi Arabia and Japan at the halfway stage of qualifying Group B.

Two teams qualify automatically for the finals in Russia while the third-placed team would have to negotiate playoffs against a side from Group A and another against one from CONCACAF to reach the World Cup.

The Socceroos play Iraq in neutral Iran on March 24 (AEST) before entertaining the UAE in Sydney on March 28 and Saudi Arabia in Adelaide on June 8.

Then come the Confeds clashes against world champions Germany in Sochi on June 21 (AEST), the yet undetermined African champions in St Petersburg on June 24 and South American champions Chile in Moscow on June 27.

Hopefully, the Socceroos' competitive schedule for the year will end with the remaining World Cup qualifiers against Japan (away) on August 31 and Thailand (home) on September 5.

If the Socceroos can qualify for the finals automatically, Postecoglou would have the luxury of mapping out a meticulous plan for the World Cup.

He would be able to set a match program that suits the team's needs and have enough time to work on a few weaknesses that have become more concerning in the last few months and assess the credentials of all the candidates for the final squad.

Postecoglou would have no better opportunity to guide the Socceroos to the promised land.

And seek the kind of glory that really matters.

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4 min read
Published 8 January 2017 at 10:24am
By Philip Micallef
Source: SBS