Australian Football: The Period of Change
Australia's campaign didn't reach the previous dizzying heights of Germany, nor did it produce any memomarable moments. The Australian football team produced the same results as we did in Germany, 1 win / 1 draw / 1 loss, but couldn't qualify from a stronger group. Australia played for 56% for their first two games with 10 players and a tunnel visioned strategy didn't help their cause for the knock-out rounds. But let's face it, Australia weren't favorites to pass through to the final 16 and they didn't produce any sparkling performances.
What Australia's performance throughout the World Cup 2010 campaign did prove that the Socceroos are set for a period of change and during this change, the Aussies need to develop and move forward.
Coach: Pim Verbeek
First and foremost in the Australian fans and pundits' minds is the change of coach. Pim Verbeek did his job and got us to the World Cup for the second year in a row. He produced consistent results during the qualification rounds and solidified his mark on the team. The 4-2-3-1 formation was defensively oriented and results reflected this, with minimal goals in all Asian qualification games. However, Verbeek's lack of flexibility was evident when even new substitutes were brought into a system that was failing them during the World Cup.
Football Federation Australia must bring in a tried and tested coach who is capable of developing players and a system that will produce results in the short and long term.
The Future Coach?
Football Federation Australia (FFA) President Frank Lowry has said he'll offer over $6 million for the right coach. FFA needs to dig their hands deep in their pockets and bring in quality to develop their youth system and produce results in the near future. They also need to prepare a bid for the 2022 World Cup to be hosted in Australia and thus FFA needs to appoint someone with the clout to get Australia into the knock-out stage through the quality of their football, not by luck or chance.
Possible replacements that have been touted include Marco van Basten and Frank Rijkaard, Louis van Gaal, Gerard Houllier and Sven Goran Erikson. The underlying feeling, I believe, is that an Australian coach wouldn't make the grade for this extremely important position.
Goalkeeper Extraordinnaire: Mark Schwarzer
Australia's 37 year old rock and stalwart in the middle of the posts is Mark Schwarzer and if there was anyone Australia could keep fit and in form until the next world cup, it would be him. But alas, dreams don't come true and everyone expects Schwarzer to retire from international duty in the coming year or two.
Will the goal be safe?
Australia's likely replacement will be Brad Jones whose been Schwarzer's deputy at both Middlesbrough and Australia. He missed the World Cup to his son's illness and missed some developmental experience. I doubt very much that the Boro no.1 would have secured any game time without Schwarzer getting injured.
The Aussie defence has held mostly strong against sides over the past few years due to such players as Lucas Neill, Craig Moore, Tony Popovic, Scott Chipperfield and co. These players have served well but are a little too old and slow and basically aren't good enough to stop the world's best attackers; as witnessed in the Germany 4-0 capitulation.
The Future at the Back
The situation for the Socceroos back four looks a little bleak. Michael Beauchamp may still kick the ball around for a few more years but his ability and years should be numbered. David Carney and Mark Milligan will be around longer, injuries permitting, but whilst they are good against sides in Asia, they are prone to making the odd fatal error which the stronger sides will capitalize on. Players like Jade North who should have been blooded in this year's world cup wasn't even taken on the plane. Shame, shame, shame.
The Current Midfield
The stalwarts of the past couple of years are looking a little bit too tired. Midfielders like Jason Culina, Vince Grella, Marco Bresciano, and Brett Emerton have all served their nation proud over their international careers but it would seem that their best days are behind them. Yes they are still good but for how long?
The Future Middlemen
Carl Valeri, who is only slightly younger than the others mentioned previously, should be around for a few more years in the middle of the park (touch wood for the fans). Mile Jedinak and Nicky Carle are other middlemen who will prove useful but is that about it? Midfielders seem to be a rare bunch with Verbeek insisting on playing the strongest XI in the 2010 World Cup. Can we fault him? That was his job and not to develop the future generation.
Going On Strike
Australians all over the world hoped there would be a bright light at the end of the tunnel following the V Bomber's retirement but there isn't really a player that has the ability to hold up the ball and attract defenders like Mark Viduka. So when Pim Verbeek chose his formation, one must ask the question. Was Verbeek really in love with his formation or was the lack of depth in Australia's strikers stopping him from playing a more traditional 4-4-2? Of course we know he was obsessed but the question prompts thought on the age and ability of our strikers. Harry Kewell could have been so much more without his troublesome groin. Timmy Cahill took his Everton form with him to this world cup and if only it wasn't for the overzealous Mexican referee, he could have done more for the Socceroos.
To strike or not to strike
Australians all let us rejoice, when we find a new striker. Timmy Cahill, injuries permitting, may be the future but longer term, the Socceroos must develop players like Joel Griffiths, Scott McDonald, Nikita Rukavytsya and the attacking midfielder of Richard Garcia. Rukavtsya may hold all the cards with his pace and ability to run at defenders.
Develop the Development
The Australian Football Federation must secure a new coach and develop a new vision for the future; one with a progressive youth development system. In the short term our older players may get us through the next couple of years, but to the next world cup too? Socceroos fans shouldn't expect too much in the lead up to the next world cup but hopefully a youth development system should start to kick in beyond 2014.
World Cup 2022: Australia
Football Federation Australia's current President Frank Lowry is adamant in placing a bid to host either the 2018 or 2022 world cup. Realistically, the 2022 date is more likely and if Australia were to win the bid, the previously mentioned youth development system must produce some top quality players and a world class coach must be brought in closer to the time. Anything less than qualification for the knockout stage would be considered a VERY bad result for all Australians.
The Success of the A-League
Australia's premier league must take huge steps forward in order to further football in a country where it plays second fiddle. Sponsorship, commitments from the media, team community engagements, and foreign marquee players will all help raise the profile of the A-League and should help to bring the league forward. Current and future players must take the league more seriously and not venture overseas in droves. If the A-League was to develop, the next Australian coach must take it more seriously and not hold the same prejudices as Pim Verbeek, lest he draw the same ire of the Aussie fans.