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Australia focus

Time to plan for life after Pim

March 11, 2010
By John Iannantuono

OK, so it's still not official, but the writing is on the wall that Pim Verbeek will leave his post as Socceroos coach at the end of the 2010 World Cup.

Pim Verbeek
GettyImages / WorldSportGroupPim Verbeek: Masterminded the Socceroos' World Cup qualification

At a press conference in Melbourne to promote the Socceroos' May 24 friendly against New Zealand, Verbeek refused to confirm what many believe to be the case: that he will part ways with the Australian national team after the World Cup to take up a club coaching position.

"[Football Federation Australia chief executive] Ben [Buckley] and I, we have some discussions and I think it's better to (finalise those and then) come out and say everything to the media," Verbeek told the press. "At the moment we have to make a final decision, I think we should leave it until then.

"Everything you read or hear is just speculation and the only people who know what's going on are the two people sitting here."

As we continue to speculate, then, you'd like to think that the decision-makers are putting plans in place just in case those that are speculating are indeed proven correct.

Should Verbeek step down, the word on the street is that the FFA will appoint a caretaker coach for the 2011 Asian Cup and then hire a high-profile for the 2014 World Cup qualifiers. It's the same strategy that was used by the FFA when Guus Hiddink boarded a plane for Russia once the Socceroos were knocked out of the 2006 finals in the second round.

Back then, the FFA handed the reins of the national team to Hiddink's assistant, Graham Arnold, in a caretaker capacity until his ill-fated 2007 Asian Cup campaign forced the FFA into action. After months of searching, they finally settled on Verbeek, who gave the strategy some credit as he managed to qualify for the 2010 finals and 2011 Asian Cup.

The job that awaits Verbeek's successor, however, won't be so easy as the Socceroos will need rebuilding after their trip to South Africa. It is expected that many of the established order will call time on their international careers, stripping the squad of stability, experience, and of course, talent.

It will be a real challenge for the new coach, and a challenge that hasn't raised its head since Frank Farina had to rebuild the national team at the turn of the century.

Han Berger is a name that has been thrown around as a possible option for the role of caretaker, however Berger's current responsibilities as the governing body's Technical Director are far more important than keeping the seat warm for the new guy.

Berger is charged with implementing a national football curriculum that is hoped will produce generations of Australian footballers that meet a world-class standard. Asking him to divert his attention away from a program that will ensure continued World Cup qualification to focus on a short-term goal - that being the Asian Cup - seems to make little sense.

As former Socceroos and AC Milan goalkeeper Zeljko Kalac recently told The Australian newspaper, "once the World Cup is over, we are going to lose a fair slice of the squad that has produced so many great results for the national team over the last six to eight years. We are going to have to have a major rebuilding process."

Given the enormity of the task at hand, there appears little logic in appointing a caretaker to lead the Socceroos at the Asian Cup, then switching over to the coach proper on the eve of the 2014 World Cup qualifiers

So why wait? Make the call early and let the new coach get cracking with the job at hand.