IT has been, quite simply, the most remarkable 24 hours in Australian football in recent memory.
The Uruguay game in 2005 certainly provided the most euphoric high, with the Asian Cup win ten years later running it close. The lows? It’s difficult to go past the back-to-back bagelling given to the Socceroos by France and Brazil in 2013.
But at least they were days that provided consistent emotion — one or the other.
Yesterday’s (and today’s) events have been such a rollercoaster ride, you’re not sure if you should giggle until your eyes run with tears at the excitement of it all, or just lean out of the window and throw up.
It started with the exclusion of Aaron Mooy from the starting XI to face Syria, continued with a nervy 2-1 extra time win over Syria, and ended with the news (still unconfirmed officially), that Ange Postecoglou will step down after the intercontinental play-offs in November.
Star player dropped, World Cup progress, and the coach quitting (allegedly), all in the space of two days? Only in football in Australia.
He has long held a desire to test himself in Europe, and the rumour is, he has had offers. With January marking the halfway point in the European leagues, maybe he feels it is time he put himself firmly in the frame by making himself available?
Perhaps he also feels that a poor tournament in Russia 2018 (should Australia get there), would tarnish his resume, to the extent that overseas clubs would scratch his name off their list?
On a massive day of football news, David Weiner and Brenton Speed dissect the Socceroos progression, CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers and along with Daniel Garb, look at the bombshell Ange Postecoglou news.
Closer to home, it’s abundantly clear he’s frustrated with the rather glacial pace of progress at FFA. With the governing body seemingly locked in an endless cycle of antagonism with the clubs over the make-up of the congress, and seemingly little to no plan for expansion, Postecoglou’s grand vision for the game seems as far away as ever.
Yet the strangest aspect of all this has been his increasingly grumpy and confrontational demeanour in his dealings with the media.
This is an area of the game Ange knows well, and for three years he played his hand superbly, albeit helped by the Asian Cup success.
Then, suddenly, after demanding a more critical football media, he turned tail and railed against criticism of his new playing system — even though the only questions being asked were football ones. The type of questions Postecoglou had requested, as opposed to talk of crowds, or code wars.
Postecoglou dug in, refused to change his playing style, and while he should be commended for sticking to his guns, it now just seems plain odd that he will walk away before reaching the stage (the World Cup), where he has long proclaimed his methods will be vindicated.
The Herald Sun report that broke the news of Postecoglou’s decision claims he feels “undermined” by criticism, not just of his team, but of his body language in particular.
In that regard, I have some sympathy. Body language (or body appearance — he’s even been taken to task for not looking the part), has no bearing on a coach’s ability, and there may also be some truth of certain agendas being at play when it comes to coaches who might like his job.
Yet the “mates culture” which is so damaging in Australian football, also applies in reverse — and Ange also has many influential supporters, many of whom blindly follow him, and for whom he can do no wrong.
What is needed — indeed, what has always been needed — is a proper, fair and balanced discussion, with all opinions respected (if not necessarily agreed with) and taken on board at face value.
With assistant Ante Milicic seemingly set for Western Sydney Wanderers, and no guarantee Steven Lowy’s board will even still be in place by the end of the year, FFA must act quickly and decisively.
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Some have suggested a short-term solution (a la Guus Hiddink), but with the Asian Cup starting in the UAE just six months after the World Cup next year, that would appear counter-productive.
Graham Arnold would offer a more pragmatic and balanced approach, but while there’s no doubt he is a fine coach, he would (in my opinion), bring some of the same issues as Postecoglou. Plus, he has had the job before.
Kevin Muscat has runs on the board, and knows Postecoglou’s thinking. I reckon he’d be a decent choice, but does his playing reputation precede him?
Tony Popovic would appear to be ruled out, having just taken the club job in Turkey with Karabukspor, and it’s probably too soon for the likes of Paul Okon or John Aloisi — both of whom still have plenty to prove at club level.
Josep Gombau would continue Ange’s attacking ethos, but his Adelaide United team were — at times — as porous as the Socceroos.
Those currently available include Bert Van Marwijk, Jurgen Klinsmann, and intriguingly, Luiz Felipe Scolari, whose contract with Guangzhou Evergrande runs out on November 30.
Scolari has coached extensively in Asia, winning the AFC Champions League, and he led his native Brazil to the World Cup in 2002. He wants to coach at a World Cup again, although his salary may prove a stumbling block.
His approach to the game is a lot more pragmatic than Ange Postecoglou’s — but perhaps that is no bad thing, given the traumas the “attack-at-all-costs” mentality has caused over the last twelve months in particular.
In the meantime, Ange prepares for his swansong against Honduras, coached by Jorge Luis Pinto - the man who was his opposite number for Costa Rica, in his very first international, back in 2013.
The day when many thought the dark cloud had been lifted from football in Australia.