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Focus on Australia

Simply winning should be good enough

May 7, 2010
By John Iannantuono
(Archive)

Ever since Socceroos coach Pim Verbeek announced his decision to vacate his post at the end of the 2010 World Cup, there's been no shortage of opinions as to who should take over from the Dutchman. The vacancy is seen as an opportunity (by some) to rid the Socceroos of its 'grinding out' results mentality and adopt a more cavalier approach.

Pim Verbeek
GettyImagesPim Verbeek: Leaving his post with Australia after the World Cup finals

There's a belief held by some that in this results-driven industry, winning alone is not enough - coaches have a responsibility to ensure their teams entertain while also collecting the three points. Don't bother bringing home the bacon if it's not wrapped in some fancy paper and decorative ribbon.

Great in theory, but is it practical for the Socceroos post South Africa 2010?

In the long-term: sure, why not. At grassroots level, the game is undergoing a revolution with the implementation of the FFA's National Football Curriculum and within the next 10-to-15 years, fans can expect to start seeing the results of this system.

In the short-term, however, it's highly doubtful. And the reason for this is fairly simple: Australia's next crop of Socceroos aren't cultured enough.

During his tenure with the Socceroos, Verbeek has been criticised - rather unfairly, in my opinion - for his conservative game plan and pragmatic approach. His onus on results first, substance second has frustrated some sections of the media and public during World Cup and Asian Cup qualifying, largely because of the lack of inventiveness, excitement and attacking prowess of his players.

However, his approach yielded positive results on all fronts, effectively handing a spoon to the critics from which they could tuck in to their slices of humble pie.

Only teams with sufficient quality and culture in their ranks are capable of winning 'beautifully'. Of the world footballing powers, only Brazil adopts such a brand with unrivalled success. A Brazilian child's first step is likely to be a stepover; its second sends the ball into the back of the net. Generations of this street football education allows Brazil to use its attack as a mode of defence; a generation of flawed football education in Australia, meanwhile, has left its next crop exposed and behind the game's elite.

But there is light on the horizon. As FFA Technical Director Han Berger told ESPNsoccernet two weeks ago, the FFA is still at the very early stages of rolling out its National Football Curriculum and creating Australian footballers that will boast similar qualities to the world's elite.

Berger has admitted that the younger crop are not educated enough to understand a 4-3-3 system, are not receiving adequate game time with their respective clubs, and therefore are not developing fast enough. So, how can we expect the next crop to package eye-catching football with results, even with an attack-minded coach with fresh ideas at the helm?

Playing beautiful is, well, beautiful, but not at the expense of victory - just ask any Internazionale fan.

Grinding out results may not be the 'Aussie' way, but in this period of re-building, it'll ensure the Socceroos play in World Cups, which is what the world game is all about.