Feature

Van Marwijk hints at substance over style for Socceroos

Australia's new coach Bert van Marwijk made two interesting observations when he was introduced to the media soon after arriving in Sydney.

The Dutchman who took his country to the 2010 FIFA World Cup final has been given the job of leading the Socceroos in the forthcoming competition in Russia.

He has a five-month contract in charge of Australia replacing Ange Postecoglou, who quit the post after the national team's final qualifier against Honduras in November.

Van Marwijk is a successful and respected coach but many Australian pundits and fans are worried that his penchant for pragmatism and conservatism might cancel out all the good work Postecoglou has done in changing Australian football's mentality.

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Once stymied by an inferiority complex, the Socceroos have grown and boast an attitude of no fear and having a go.



It is obviously too early to tell how van Marwijk will ask his men to play when they meet Norway and Colombia shortly before they embark on the stiffer challenges in Russia where they will face France, Denmark and Peru.

However two points made by van Marwijk in a highly enlightening press conference may have given an insight into his philosophy and modus operandi.

Van Marwijk, who will be 66 in May, disclosed that he belongs to the coaching school of thought that you cannot ram a playing style down the throats of your players.

Asking them to play in a way they are unable to or do not like would be "a mistake", he said.

Which would suggest that the physical and highly controversial style with which the Netherlands reached the 2010 final in South Africa may not have been borne out of van Marwijk's perceived obsession with results but driven by necessity and circumstance.

In other words van Marwijk probably did not believe that the 'Oranje' were good enough to mix it with the competition's most gifted and technically endowed teams, particularly Spain.

He also acknowledged that the Socceroos may not have the best players in the world but this should not stop them becoming strong "as a team".

So at this stage it appears that it is anybody's guess what sort of game plan he might devise for the Socceroos, whom he regards as "physically strong" and with the ability to "play football".
The second point was about the importance in modern football of transition and the use of space.

As a coach he said he likes to have the ball and play combination football so as to influence a game but it also important to have an influence on the game without the ball.

And he cited Premier League runaway leaders Manchester City as a prime example.

"Every game they have more possession but they score most of their goals in transition ... that's very interesting," he said in stressing the importance of utilising space.

This could be seen as a sign that van Marwijk, who knows a thing or two about the Socceroos team but has not had an opportunity to have a close look at prospective candidates individually, might be tempted to explore the merits of a safety-first approach based on quick transition.

Interesting times lie ahead.

One thing is certain, though: van Marwijk is his own man and he will not be influenced by the success of previous coaches.

"I will do it my way," he declared.

Van Marwijk will watch three A-League matches this weekend.


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3 min read
Published 1 February 2018 at 3:19pm
By Philip Micallef