Fresh from handing Ange Postecoglou a five-year deal to become the Socceroos coach, Football Federation Australia chairman Frank Lowy made his expectations clear: to become Asia’s best team and compete boldly at the next two World Cups. Lowy has made it known that near enough is no longer good enough for the national team.
”The objective is definitely to be the No.1 team in Asia. There is no question about it,” Lowy said in Sydney.
”We have the knowledge, the ability and players, and now we have the coach. The rest is that we want to do better than we did in the past [at the World Cup], but that may take a little bit more time.”
Lowy said the experiment of using overseas coaches for the national team had served its purpose but that it was now the right time to go local. ”It was our ambition for some time now to appoint an Australian to the position of head coach, but not just any Australian, we wanted a good coach. Now we happen to have one,” he said. ”We are looking forward to a long service from him, until the World Cup in Russia. We have the faith in him and we know he’s a good guy, he’s the right person for us at this stage in our development.”
FFA chief executive David Gallop said Postecoglou was capable of ”uniting our players to perform at the highest level and uniting the whole nation behind them”.
”Our technical experts and his own peers have indicated he is the best man for the job,” Gallop said. ”It’s certainly a bonus for us that he’s an Australian and he’s on the mission with us to make this sport the largest and most popular in the country.”
Taking a coach away from an A-League club wasn’t easy, Lowy said, but he was relieved Melbourne Victory eventually agreed to release Postecoglou.
”I understand that if I was in their position, I would have been a bit uptight about it,” he said. ”They’ve had him for a year and a half now, and it’s only the beginning of the season, but I thank the chairman Anthony [Di Pietro] and the board for releasing him to us.”
Postecoglou has promised to overhaul the squad in time for next year’s World Cup, pledging to give the next generation of players an opportunity to prove themselves.
“The two-fold challenge of the job in the short term is to have our best possible team for Brazil, but I think we need to expose our younger players to international football and find out who can and can’t play at that level,” Postecoglou said on Wednesday.
”I’ve never been let down by throwing young players in and you never really find out until you give them the opportunity. I plan to do that.
“We don’t have a lot of games between now and then, but even in a training camp it’s an opportunity to expose a young person to a different kind and a different level of football.
”Sometimes they even surprise you and I really believe that we might be able to unearth one or two players who will be able to have a major impact on our side for years to come.”
But when asked if some of the squad’s much-maligned senior players would be shown the door, Postecoglou said he wouldn’t make any rash decisions. “I’m not going in there with a target or hit-list of people. That’s not the way I work,” he said.
“My job is to get the best out of every player who is available and I certainly don’t discount anyone. But will there be changes? Of course there will. I’ve got my own
way of doing things and whenever that happens along the way, there will be changes to personnel and the way we operate.”
Postecoglou also declared he wouldn’t put a ceiling on what the Socceroos could achieve in Brazil, saying he aims to “get people dreaming again”.
“When the World Cup comes around, I want people excited about watching the national team. Our goal between now and then is to restore some hope,” he said.
While Japan in particular seems to have progressed way beyond Australia’s clutches, Postecoglou said the Socceroos would head into the Asian Cup in 2015 with confidence.
“The Asian Cup is going to be a fantastic tournament and it’s an opportunity for us to host a tournament and hopefully do well,” he said.
“Our national team hasn’t raised any [recent] silverware – it would be great for that to happen.”
While previous coaches Holger Osieck and Pim Verbeek were criticised for introducing a negative style to the Socceroos, Postecoglou said his teams would go the other way.
“We are in a region where we need to start taking some ascendancy, particularly here in Asia in terms of the way we compete and the way we play,” he said. “Particularly here at home, I’d like us to play an attacking and aggressive style of football, because that’s what the Australian sporting public like and I think that’s where modern football is going anyway.”
Postecoglou said he was aware he would be judged on results, and believed style and winning were not mutually exclusive.
“It’s not just about the aesthetics, I’m very much into winning – that’s been my whole coaching career,” he said.
”I try to set up a style that wins and is current. Do I think we have the players at national team level? I guarantee you, it was harder at club level, because sometimes it was harder to adjust players’ ability to play.
”In the national team, you’re working with better players and I have full faith that Australian footballers can play a modern style.”
© 2013 The Age | This article was written by Sebastian Hasset and first appeared in The Age on 24 October 2013.