Why appointing van Marwijk is a step backward

The appointment of Bert van Marwijk as Socceroos coach is a lost opportunity that leaves many questions hanging.

Bert van Marwijk

Bert van Marwijk Source: Bongarts

Where, exactly, are we headed and is there a plan for our future football?

Thousands of coaches have been trained in a particular fashion, hundreds of clubs have been encouraged to play in a particular way according to the national direction and, now, without articulating reasons why or the research and thinking behind, Football Federation Australia have made a very significant change.

Those thousands are entitled to question whether the national body believes in the direction they have been selling because, if so, this is an appointment that would not have been possible.

Given the short-term decision, it is overwhelmingly likely that Graham Arnold will take the Socceroos helm post Russia 2018, which is another departure.

Graham is an outstanding coach who must be heftily congratulated for his performances over a number of A-League seasons in multiple clubs and I hope will become a great success in European football, he is certainly ready. But his beliefs are different to what was being espoused.

In light of this appointment, though, I would have preferred Graham be given the job for the World Cup and beyond.

Frankly put, we very quickly absorbed and moved beyond the Dutch methodology and are already looking at vastly different ways of coaching and playing.

Van Marwijk is a coach with a good record with Saudi Arabia, having beaten us to the post in World Cup qualifying, but brings nothing we can absorb and learn from. His Dutch team in 2010 counter-attacked their way to the World Cup final and kicked the hell out of Spain. To derision back home.

(Mind you, in his defence, Louis van Gaal did much the same in 2014 and that is because the Dutch have not kept pace with the best nations in their thinking - the KNVB recently released a major report into areas they are deficient in an attempt to arrest the slide).

It is short-term thinking at its zenith. Emblematic of where our game is today.

Hiddink changed the game here. The next two imports added nothing and left without imprint.

In future, any international coach purporting to be worth a very considerable investment has to bring qualities that Australia needs to learn, otherwise the investment should be made in building the capacity and experience of our own.

Worse, I’m led to believe that a coach who changed an entire nation and conquered the most difficult Confederation, South America, through his work, Marcelo Bielsa, was not approached.

He produced football with Chile in 2010 that is above anything we have seen. Extraordinary. Cruyff himself called it the "modern total football", a template that aligns perfectly with our conception of future football (that appears now to have been discarded).

He was not even, apparently, on the shortlist of three. Impossible to believe. Apparently no discussion, not a call. I very much hope to be misinformed here.

This would be sad, as is the apparent change of direction with both the Socceroos in 2015 and the Matildas performing superbly well in a manner that leverages the best of Australia in many aspects.

I wish van Marwijk the very best as he joins the alumni of people to lead our green and gold. We have an immense opportunity to get out of the group in Russia.

But much like the rest of the game at present, confusion reigns.

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4 min read
Published 25 January 2018 at 6:03pm
By Craig Foster