Friday, October 11, 2013

Osieck not long for Socceroos' top job

With Australian football trying to regain its feet after a 6-0 pasting against Brazil last month, speculation has intensified over the future of Socceroo coach Holger Osieck. The German manager has appeared a man unable to take forward steps in the past twelve months, with his players effectively playing according to inconsistent tactics; even his greatest moment in 2013 was tarnished by a poorly-timed sexist joke. The only thing Osieck has definitively delivered for Australia has been PR calamity: perfunctory football run by a quasi-unlikable boss.

The only things in Osieck's favor - significant though they may be - include a truncated lead-in time for any new manager and the $1 million he's still owed by the Football Federation of Australia Frank Lowy. Although he remains unpopular, it still remains more likely than not that the manager incumbent will lead the likes of Brett Holman, Tommy Oar and Archie Thompson (!) to South America and, ultimately, disappointment.

Strangely, the single greatest reason for the appointment of a new boss might be a limited talent pool. With Australia's best 20 players almost set in stone, the only way a new gaffer might impact the side during the year-til-Brazil would be to engage players and encourage tactical buy-in. This is an aspect of management Osieck has found difficult, because his iteration of Australia simply hasn't had the identity of past sides. For years, Australia was a burly, physical outfit capable of controlling games through brute strength. As players like Oar and Tom Rogic replaced the Mark Vidukas and Scott Chipperfields of the world, the Socceroos lost some of that identity and therefore Osieck has settled for an inconsistent style.

A new manager - Leo Beenhakker, perhaps? Or Johan Neeskens? - might help develop a national team with an identity and a definite idea of how to play to type. However, with Lowy burnt twice by international bosses (neither Osieck nor his predecessor Pim Verbeek have been a real success), the inclination is that Osieck will retain his post for the Fiesta World Cup, but only that long.

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