The Big Issue : Edition 475
THEBIGISSUE9–22JAN2015 17 The Socceroos have won just two of their previous 12 matches. Journalists that only a year ago trumpeted Postecoglou’s appointment are now questioning his methods. Clearly, the honeymoon is over. Postecoglou insists this short-term regeneration pain will yield long-term gain. “I’m making these decisions and I’m making them for a reason, and that’s probably costing us in terms of performance and in terms of fluency,” he stated after losing to Qatar last October. He then added: “In my mind we’re still making progress.” That’s Postecoglou’s hallmark: he plays the long game. “He has very, very strong convictions about what he wants to do and how he wants to play,” Sermanni says. “And he stands by them and delivers. I’ve got real admiration for that. I think what Ange has done great is he’s brought players in and they’ve played games. You can’t judge players unless you put them in there, playing against teams that are going to test them. It’s not easy to do that; it’s easy to use the tried and true. But if you’re going to enact change, you’ve got to make those decisions and stand by them.” Football pundit Mark Bosnich might argue differently: that Australia has gone “backwards” since the World Cup. “We understand what Ange is trying to do but as a coach you need proof, and the proof is victories,” he told News Corp. “You can have an eye on the future, but it’s the present that matters.” To be fair, the Socceroos’ latest games have by design been played overseas and against substantial opponents. “We’re putting these challenges to them for a reason and I think in the long run it will be good for us,” Postecoglou said. He’ll take that to the extreme with the Socceroos to meet world champions Germany in a friendly later this year. The Socceroos have been playing patches of good football. Just not 90 minutes of it. Playing beautiful football, scaring opponents and almost but not quite winning can only continue so long. Particularly when there’s home-soil pride on the line. The Asian Cup is Australia’s chance to prove themselves against Asia’s best. Likely tournament favourites Iran, South Korea and Japan all finished bottom of their respective World Cup groups, just as the Socceroos did. But unlike the Socceroos each recorded a point. Of the three, the Socceroos, will encounter South Korea in the group stage, along with Oman and Kuwait. To add to the pressure, Australia used to be ranked third in the region; they’re now 10th. The Underdogs IT HAS NOW been more than 14 months since Postecoglou took over the Socceroos, which means by his own terms his results should begin to be judged. The Asian Cup will be his ultimate test. Most commentators are cautiously optimistic, perhaps buoyed by the Socceroos’ gallant efforts at the 2014 World Cup. Notably, the Socceroos are entering the competition as underdogs – Australia’s preferred sporting starting point – as they generally lift in backs-against-the-wall situations. The thinking is that if an undercooked Socceroos performed admirably against the world’s best after they shook off nerves, a better-prepared team will stand a solid chance against Asia’s. Player turned commentator Robbie Slater termed this past year “the recession Australian football had to have”, with the Socceroos undergoing some long overdue rebuilding. Football commentating great Les Murray said Postecoglou must be afforded patience, even if it is at the cost of winning the Asian Cup. That’s a common sense approach, but few are understanding enough to support it. For most of us, anything short of making the final will be considered failure (the team came second in the 2011 iteration, so the expectation is to equal that result at least). Cahill has implored fans to keep the faith. “Australia just has to believe in what we’re trying to do,” he told Fox Sports after the recent friendly against Japan. “At home, in Melbourne, Sydney we’ll have 40,000. Everyone will be cheering us on and it will be a different story. These chances will turn into goals.” Sermanni, too, is confident the Socceroos will be just fine. “They’ll do well. The team will be right. They’ll be ready to go.” » Fiona Crawford is a writer, editor, social media strategist and PhD student whose work spans social and environmental issues, the arts and football. See agirlcalledfred.com. The AFC Asian Cup is on now.