Oct 12, 2013, 8:53 PM EST
Let’s consider the implications of this tweet from Tim Cahill:
Want 2 say Thankyou to Holger for getting us to our 3rd WORLD CUP. Is this a first get us to WC and get the sack. Sad day for Football in oz—
Tim Cahill (@Tim_Cahill) October 11, 2013
That was the Australian international reacting to news his national team had fired their head coach, Holger Osieck. The German boss had steered the Socceroos through Asian World Cup Qualifying but had also been at the helm to two straight 6-0 defeats (to Brazil and France). After Friday’s thrashing, the former Fenerbahçe, Urawa Red Diamonds, and Canadian national team boss was dismissed ahead of a Tuesday friendly against the Canucks.
The decision wasn’t much of a surprise. Holger was asked about the possibility in Paris after the latest loss, ultimately admitting the lopsided results provided “food for discussion.” On Australian television, former Australian international Mark Bosnich said “Holger would do the right thing” and “walk away,” while Robbie Slater, another former Socceroo said “[the Football Federation Australia] need to sack him.”
But back to Cahill’s tweet – a piece of loyal if contrarian sentiment. One implication would be anything that happens on the field after Australia qualifies for a World Cup should be overlooked, a slightly paradoxical sentiment considering the team was disappointed not to have made it out of their group in South Africa. Aspiring to contend for a final 16 spot in Brazil, Australia’s form over the next eight months is fair game. That they’ve been demolished by two likely World Cup teams (France has yet to qualify) hints the team’s not ready to match their federation’s ambition.
Which, as it turns out, is exactly why the FFA let him go:
The FFA Chairman Frank Lowy AC said the long-term interests of Australian football were paramount in making the change.
“The decision is based on the longer term issues of the rejuvenation of the Socceroos team and the preparations for the World Cup and the Asian Cup,” said Lowy.
“FFA has set a strategic objective of having a highly competitive team in Brazil and then handing over a team capable of winning the Asian Cup on home soil in January 2015.
“We have come to the conclusion that change is necessary to meet those objectives.
It’s difficult to argue Australia was on a path to be “highly competitive” in Brazil. Thus, Osieck was let go, though by that standard, it’s unclear why he lasted this long.
In the 2010 cycle, Australia — debuting in Asian qualifying — surprised many by breezing through qualifying. Under Guus Hiddink disciple Pim Verbeek, the Socceroos won six and drew two in eight final round qualifiers, finishing five points ahead of Japan in Asia’s group A. For a team that was taking a huge step up in competition, moving to the confederation from Oceania, it was an unexpectedly dominant performance. In those final eight games, they only conceded once.
There was something strange about their run, though – something that needed to be corrected before this cycle. In moving to Asia, Australia brought a new, physical, direct style to the region characterized by that’s come to be dominated by Japan and South Korea’s combination of acumen, technique, fitness, and speed. Perhaps underestimating what Australia brought, Asia failed to adjust, a naivete that was unlikely to last beyond a single cycle.
This time around, Australia won only three of their eight final round qualifiers, finishing four points behind Japan. Thanks to four draws (and only one loss), they beat Jordan to Group B’s second automatic qualifying spot, but having allowed seven goals in eight games, their dominance was clearly over. Teams had adjusted.
But if that was the only problem for Osieck, the 65-year-old, Australia could have adjusted. The confounding problem: Australia just doesn’t have the horses. They’re still relying on Lucas Neill (35 years old). Mark Bresciano, Brett Holman, Matt McKay, Luke Wilshire, and Mile Jedinak — all 29 or older — are mainstays, while Tim Cahill (33) remains a focal point. Though some of these players have regressed from club roles in Europe, they remain key players for Australia.
And as their already limited squad has aged, few new talents have picked up the torch. Players like Robbie Kruse, James Holland, Nikita Rukavytsya, and Rhys Williams have their virtues, but none of them are going to push the team to the next level. Even with somebody like Tommy Oar (21) getting more time, Australia still lacks the individual talents to meet their federation’s ambition. once you factor in the age of the team’s core, the Socceroos look weaker than they did for 2010.
Perhaps that’s the argument to retain Osieck — that Australia just isn’t that good — but the FFA obviously disagrees, creating a no-win scenario for their coach. And in the FFA’s defense, back-to-back 6-0 losses are unacceptable. Even this limited squad should be playing much better.
But if Australia is hoping Guus Hiddink, the man immediately linked with a return to the job, can change their direction, they’re likely mistaken. Not only did the former Socceroos boss ultimately disappoint with Russia and Turkey, but he won’t have a chance to restock Australia’s shelves ahead of Brazil 2014.
Maybe the Dutchman can conjure some South Korea in 2002, Australia in 2006 magic. More likely: He’ll finally give the FFA reason to realize Australia’s limitations.
Dec 27, 2014, 12:32 PM EST
How and where to watch every PL game live and online during Week 19.
Dec 27, 2014, 11:55 AM EST
First meets fourth at St. Mary’s as Chelsea look to keep their lead at the top of the table.
Dec 27, 2014, 11:05 AM EST
The Premier League has seen 470 goals hit the back of the net so far, and we’ve narrowed it down to the top five.
Dec 27, 2014, 10:33 AM EST
Robbie Earle and Kyle Martino discuss why the title will end up at Stamford Bridge, and which team from Manchester will finish in second.
Dec 27, 2014, 10:00 AM EST
As we near the halfway point of the season, check out who has been the best player in the Premier League.
Dec 27, 2014, 9:05 AM EST
Spurs look to make it four straight wins but face a United side that looked dominant on Boxing Day.
Dec 27, 2014, 8:16 AM EST
The French striker was sent off for head-butting Nedum Onuoha, a decision his manager could not disagree with.
Dec 27, 2014, 7:32 AM EST
After 16 matches in charge, Neil Warnock becomes the first Premier League manager to get sacked this season.
Dec 26, 2014, 11:42 PM EST
Chelsea players weren’t happy with the weekend training schedule, so Mourinho fixed it for them. Now it’s even worse.
Dec 26, 2014, 10:15 PM EST
Neil Warnock is reportedly close to becoming the first managing casualty of the 2014-15 Premier League season.
Dec 26, 2014, 7:00 PM EST
11 names make up one team after half of the 2014-15 Premier League season.
Dec 26, 2014, 5:58 PM EST
“I believe that Cristiano will finish his career at Real Madrid.”
Dec 26, 2014, 4:31 PM EST
Many high-flying striker arrivals in MLS can be met by a fair bit of caution, but Vancouver should be quite dangerous if Rivero can make it work.
Dec 26, 2014, 4:26 PM EST
Ronald Koeman is happy to be back in a Champions League place, but sees long road ahead for Southampton.
Dec 26, 2014, 3:45 PM EST
Brendan Rodgers feels Liverpool’s Old Trafford defeat may have been a turning point in the Reds’ season.
Dec 26, 2014, 3:19 PM EST
The Red Devils scored three but could’ve netted quite a few more in an easy win over Newcastle United on Boxing Day.
Dec 26, 2014, 2:30 PM EST
Recaps, reaction, analysis and more from all 10 games in the PL on Boxing Day.
Dec 26, 2014, 2:23 PM EST
The Gunners climbed to within two points of fourth-place Southampton.
Dec 26, 2014, 2:00 PM EST
Citizens not thinking about Chelsea, as their rampage continues.
Dec 26, 2014, 1:50 PM EST
The loss allowed Stoke to climb above the Toffees, who sit in 12th place.
- WATCH: Premier League TV schedule – Week 19 0
- VIDEO: Premier League title is Chelsea’s to lose 0
- Neil Warnock sacked by Crystal Palace 0
- VIDEO: Meet your Premier League Team of the Year, at the season’s halfway mark 1
- Premier League roundup: Boxing Day madness as Chelsea, Man United, Liverpool win (video) 0
- Arsenal 2-1 Queens Park Rangers: Gunners overcome Giroud red card to hold off R’s 2