Former Socceroos coach Pim Verbeek has been quoted in Qatari media as saying Australian football faces a bleak period as the brightest stars in Australian football history are slowly extinguished.
Well, you'd know, Pim.
His Aussie tenure was marked by Viking-style honesty. Did you ever meet someone so honest that every conversation you had with them ended up revolving around your faults? That's honesty to a fault, and that's Pim Verbeek. And despite their limitations, players like Danny Allsopp and Archie Thompson were hardly likely to produce positive results after such brutal “encouragement”.
|How's that "promotion" to Morocco's U-21s working out, Pim?|
While his latest assertions verge towards the correct – developing Australian footballers aren't of the same quality as those of fifteen years hence – Australia should still qualify for Brazil if their squad is managed adeptly.
Part of the blame for this dearth of top-end talent can be laid at Verbeek's size twelves. The Dutchman controlled Australia for three years, culminating in a morbid showing in the group of terminal illness at the Big Dance in 2010. During that time, he was relentless in his beliefs: not living in Australia, playing defensive formations and deploying far-flung experience at the expense of A-League promise.
The defining moment of his tenure in Australia wasn't a match, result or player evolution but a formation. In the Socceroos' ignominious defeat to Germany in their first match in South Africa, the team lined up in a 4-6-0 with untested Richard Garcia leading the line from the centre of midfield (and playing hideously out of position).
The Green and Gold Army was not only content but joyful at his departure. His time at the top left football in Australia without a legacy; in a period in which Australian soccer should have been building on the wonderful success of their 2006 World Cup campaign, his refusal to integrate local youth into an aging team was not only short-sighted but almost wilfully negligent.
His half-hidden attempt to parlay short-term Socceroo success into a bigger job was hardly surprising, but still disappointing because he was bequeathed a good team with a chance to establish something of real substance.
Perhaps Verbeek now feels able to comment because he recognises some of the same traits in Australian football as he, it's one-time figurehead, displayed as boss. Yes, the country's footballing stocks are going through a changing phase, but as a smaller football nation that's the norm. It's also a phase that was delayed nearly four years during his time in charge.