The new Socceroos coach pulled from a Scrabble bag
After a day of feverish speculation, the new Socceroos coach was revealed yesterday – German Holger Osieck. The first question was: who is he? Second question was: so who is he? “Holger?” asked one of my mates, “isn’t that some fancy bread?”
Osieck is not the big name most Socceroos fans were hoping for, and is probably a disappointment for many. But he’s about the right level for where we are as a football nation.
No one likes to gossip like soccer journos and the rumour mill was in full swing yesterday; it’s Klinsmann, some were saying. Ronald Koeman or Jose Pekerman, maybe even Martin O’Neill.
But Osieck’s announcement had that strange double-take effect. Wha…? Was this a real name or just a random group of letters pulled out of a Scrabble bag?
Osieck’s playing career was undistinguished but his coaching CV is as long as your arm. He was assistant coach for the 1990 World Cup-winning Germany side – also working as youth coach, a vital skill for the FFA; had a successful stint with the Canadian national team – meaning he knows how to make the most of meager resources; and won the Asian Champions League with Japanese side Urawa Red Diamonds in 2007 – meaning a good knowledge of the Asian game and working with players from a young domestic competition.
For the past two years Osieck has been part of FIFA technical department, and he was recommended to Frank Lowy through none other than Germany legend Franz Beckenbauer – not a bad way to get a tip off.
But is he the right man for Australia? At his unveiling yesterday, the press wanted to know what system he will play, is he attacking or defensive, would he give the local league more attention than his predecessor?
Osieck answered all the questions well; his system will be flexible and based around the players at his disposal; there is no attacking or defensive, just fluid football; and he was hired by the FFA because of his experience working with players from lower level domestic competitions.
First impressions of the man? He’s not exactly charismatic but he did at least show a few flashes of humour, something Pim Verbeek seemed to have had surgically removed. He was honest about his lack of knowledge of Australian players and the A-League but ambitious enough to say Australia should be consistently qualifying for the World Cup.
What does he have to do to succeed? Firstly, make the most of the local game and keep fans onside. Verbeek’s scathing criticism cost him all the goodwill his results might have won. Secondly, no one wants more of the same reactive football; Australia is a proactive nation and expects their athletes to take the game on. Thirdly, manage a team in transition, as the so-called “golden generation” moves on.
January’s Asian Cup will show us just what we’ve taken on. Craig Foster waits with a sharpened quill; fans might not know Osieck but they’re willing to give him a fair go. After all, can it be much worse than what we’ve had to watch for the past three years?
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