JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Grooming the Socceroos to become the boys for Brazil


Holger Osieck has heard the critics but Rio is in his sights.

''Strange there are so many'': Socceroos coach Holger Osieck faces the cameras at a press conference.

''Strange there are so many'': Socceroos coach Holger Osieck faces the cameras at a press conference. Photo: AFP

Entering the press conference room, Holger Osieck greets the waiting pack with an ironic reference to the many cameras thrust in his face. ''Strange there are so many.'' The extra attention, the Socceroos coach well knows, is an indication of the intense scrutiny he has faced since the Oman debacle.

Later, privately, Osieck speaks frankly but with good humour about the now crushing weight of expectation he and his team encounter entering a three-game ordeal - starting with Tuesday night's game in Japan. Osieck's determined facade is softened by a warmth that does not always come through the lens. But, as the German coach is well aware, charm and tact are no longer elements by which he will be judged. Only the scoreboard will speak for him.

We are in a period of transition. People take a lot of things for granted. 

So did the criticism of his selection and tactics after the calamitous 2-2 draw with Oman in March sting?

''I can assure you it didn't affect me because after a game, everybody knows better,'' Osieck says. ''Nobody knows what we've worked on and the game plan and the strategy. They can only judge what they see on the pitch, and it was not what I expected myself. But people come out of the bushes in a situation like that. The coach is always the idiot.''

Keith Miller famously put the pressure of Test cricket in context by comparing it to a ''Messerschmitt up your arse''. Osieck uses his time coaching Turkish club Fenerbahce to put his present plight in perspective.

''That was a little bit intense,'' he says with a chuckle. ''They would throw some stuff at you when you were at an away game. The coins and the plastic cups of yoghurt. On the other hand, when you win they carry you on their shoulders and throw you in the air.''

Here? Osieck says he is recognised in the street more than when he first arrived in Sydney three years ago. ''But everyone is very polite. In Turkey, there were times you wouldn't go out at all.''

However, if the Oman draw did not increase the Osiecks' dry-cleaning bill, it came at a time when there was a sense of diminishing returns from Australia's high-profile imported coaches. Guus Hiddink departed a genius. Pim Verbeek gained a pass mark for World Cup qualification, but was pilloried after the Socceroos' thrashing by Germany. Osieck has not yet guaranteed a place in Brazil. Indeed, if you believe the harshest critics, he has imperilled it.

The obvious counterpoint is that performances merely reflect the talent at the respective coaches' disposal; and that Osieck has inherited the arthritic remains of Hiddink's stellar squad and Verbeek's hand-me-downs.

''The fact is, we are in a period of transition,'' Osieck says. ''People take a lot of things for granted based on previous successful qualification campaigns. The competition in Asia is a really tight one. Most people probably don't have the right assessment of that. But that is no excuse at all. It is part of my contract here. I know what I am expected to do. So when things don't go our way, like in the last game, then of course we have to live with that.''

A common criticism is that Osieck has been too slow to integrate younger players. That, reflexively, he has drawn on fading warriors. He remains defiant.

''So, I omit some of the experienced boys and I hear, 'How can he do that? He's our hero. He's our best player ever. He should be playing.' Then if you bring in the young boys, and they don't function right away because they need to grow into it, they say, 'How can he play the young boys? We need the older players.' When you have 10 people you have 10 opinions. If you have 100 people, you have 100 opinions. You get lost. You have to stick to your own guns.''

So what, if not tactics and selection, went wrong in that jaw-droppingly poor first 50 minutes against Oman? Osieck suggests that some younger players were distracted by the pre-game commitments that had, previously, fallen on ''just a few''. ''It is a personality-building process,'' he says. ''It takes time.''

He also blames nerves. ''They made some mistakes I never expected. Easy losses of the ball and a bit of lack of determination I would not normally see. Maybe some guys playing first time at the qualifying level, and they didn't do well.''

But the voices of dissent have grown louder. Perhaps as the consequence of a wonderful A-League season, any sense of cultural cringe in local football has dissipated. No longer is a foreign passport and a fancy CV sufficient to convince the critics that the imported coach knows best. Not with Ange Postecoglou, Graham Arnold and Tony Popovic in the wings.

Osieck supports the call for a ''homegrown'' coach. If not immediately, and at his own expense.

''To have a foreign coach here, it is not an eternal solution. I know all these guys here. They are good people. I like to talk to them, we always have good discussions. Of course, later on, one of them will later be in charge of the national team. Hopefully much later, because my target is to get us to Brazil.''

The last phrase is telling. My target. Not just the Socceroos' target. Only once has he been on the bench at the World Cup, as assistant manager of the winning West German team in 1990. So there is a reassuring sense of personal ambition about his current quest to take his own team to Rio.

So you have an emotional investment? ''I can guarantee you.''

Osieck was coach of Urawa Red Diamonds, who play in Saitama Stadium, the venue for Tuesday night's game. ''I definitely enjoyed it when I was there. We had great games, great crowds. 62,000 for the [Asian] Champions League final and for a friendly against Manchester United. Some of [Japan's] players played for me.''

But experience has taught Osieck not to confuse familiarity with any perceived advantage.

''Advantage?'' he says with a rueful grin. ''Before the Oman game I watched so many players and games. I was aware. But when you make some basic mistakes then you can forget about all your advantages, all your preparation. So I don't pay much attention to that. I know the Japanese players and our boys and what we have to do. It's that simple.''

Osieck cites the ''typical Aussie fighting spirit'' as a reason to believe his team will turn things around. He compares the mentality of the Australian players to the Germans. ''There was a saying: 'You have only beaten the German team when the stadium manager has switched off the lights.' In that respect, the Australians are very similar.''

But how confident can he be the Socceroos will make it to Brazil? ''As coach, you can't convey any positive spirit if you don't have belief yourself. I always say, 'When you are not convinced yourself, you cannot convince anyone.'''

6 comments so far

  • Judging by recent performances there will no chance of getting to Brazil ..maybe as a spectator perhaps,as the Socceroos are playing well below what is required to qualify.

    Date and time
    June 03, 2013, 4:44AM
    • I firmly believe the Socceroos will make Brazil. We have enough talented players to ensure that.
      But I also believe we need to get at these teams and have them on the back foot rather than trying to soak up pressure and play on the counter.
      The next 3 games are simply massive for Australia.
      Come on the Roos!

      Date and time
      June 03, 2013, 8:43AM
      • Seems to me some of our socceroos only get to play for Australia. They are either without a local league team or playing second grade in their local league.

        Date and time
        June 03, 2013, 10:55AM
        • It is simple. For the soccer world cup there be set a qualifying date: if at the date you are a team offically ranked 1-32 you qualify. I you are outside the top 32 at the critical date you have failed to qualify. The current system ensures that not the best 32 national teams play.

          At me desk
          Date and time
          June 03, 2013, 1:45PM
          • I like how there are large sections of the media and many fans blaming Holger Osieck for the poor performance of Australian football. Australia has dropped the ball with developing their own players to world standards and are only in the next 5 years attempting to remedy the problem. When Tim Cahill retires we will not have one world class field player left but I believe Rodic or Oar can come through. Thanks to money paid by parents behind closed doors in the FNSW premier league (that's right ATO, cash they are not declaring) we have a disaster of a development system in youth league. Don't blame Holger Osieck, blame FNSW and the senior clubs for the rubbish we are producing.

            Date and time
            June 03, 2013, 1:53PM
            • There were arguments, not quarreling, below about this manager.
              I still do not quite understand why Neill was still used before the Oman match, knowing he would be suspended. Explanation?
              There was a survey in this TWG days ago asking if Hodger should be replaced should socceroos lose tomorrow. I ticked (checked) no. But that did not mean I like him. It was because of the short time span to the next match against Jordan and the knowing early on about the possible no point gain in the match with Japan on 4 June.
              He is such an ordinary coach/manager that, in my opinion, he should be replaced after June 2013, whether or not socceross get the qualification or needing payoffs.
              1) did not rejuvenate the squad early with slow integration of young and potential players after the 2010 WC;
              2) use the same old squad (for momentum) for the entire 2011 Asian Cup tournament, exposing the fatigue problem in the final;
              3) finding no solution on the counter counter-attack (this was apparent early in the previous stage of the current WC qualifying round) and the problem persists, remembering the match against Iraq and Oman;
              4) the ranking of socceroos has been going down continuously since his taking over;
              5) the using of Neill upon suspension in a friendly.

              Date and time
              June 04, 2013, 8:12AM

              Make a comment

              You are logged in as [Logout]

              All information entered below may be published.

              Error: Please enter your screen name.

              Error: Your Screen Name must be less than 255 characters.

              Error: Your Location must be less than 255 characters.

              Error: Please enter your comment.

              Error: Your Message must be less than 300 words.

              Post to

              You need to have read and accepted the Conditions of Use.

              Thank you

              Your comment has been submitted for approval.

              Comments are moderated and are generally published if they are on-topic and not abusive.

              Related Coverage

              Hyundai A - 2014-15 - All Rounds

              Round 1
              Thu, 08 OctTimes shown AEDT
              WSW 1vs BRI 3 Stats
              Fri, 09 OctTimes shown AEDT
              ADE 0vs VIC 0 Stats
              Sat, 10 OctTimes shown AEDT
              CCM 3vs PER 2 Stats
              SYD 1vs MCY 1 Stats
              Sun, 11 OctTimes shown AEDT
              WEL 1vs NEW 2 Stats
              View All Fixtures
              Round 2
              Fri, 16 OctTimes shown AEDT
              ADE 1vs WSW 1 Stats
              Sat, 17 OctTimes shown AEDT
              NEW 0vs SYD 1 Stats
              VIC 3vs MCY 2 Stats
              Sun, 18 OctTimes shown AEDT
              BRI 2vs CCM 1 Stats
              PER 1vs WEL 2 Stats
              View All Fixtures
              Round 3
              Fri, 23 OctTimes shown AEDT
              NEW 1vs VIC 0 Stats
              Sat, 24 OctTimes shown AEDT
              WEL 3vs BRI 2 Stats
              SYD 1vs WSW 0 Stats
              Sun, 25 OctTimes shown AEDT
              MCY 3vs CCM 1 Stats
              PER 3vs ADE 1 Stats
              View All Fixtures
              Round 4
              Fri, 30 OctTimes shown AEDT
              MCY 2vs NEW 3 Stats
              Sat, 31 OctTimes shown AEDT
              CCM 1vs SYD 3 Stats
              BRI 3vs ADE 0 Stats
              Sun, 01 NovTimes shown AEDT
              WSW 1vs PER 0 Stats
              Mon, 02 NovTimes shown AEDT
              VIC 3vs WEL 0 Stats
              View All Fixtures
              Round 5
              Thu, 05 NovTimes shown AEDT
              ADE 2vs MCY 4 Stats
              Fri, 06 NovTimes shown AEDT
              SYD 0vs BRI 0 Stats
              Sat, 07 NovTimes shown AEDT
              NEW 1vs WSW 2 Stats
              Sun, 08 NovTimes shown AEDT
              CCM 1vs WEL 1 Stats
              Wed, 16 DecTimes shown AEDT
              PER 1vs VIC 0 Stats
              View All Fixtures
              Round 6
              Fri, 13 NovTimes shown AEDT
              WEL 4vs ADE 2 Stats
              MCY 0vs WSW 3 Stats
              Sat, 14 NovTimes shown AEDT
              NEW 1vs CCM 1 Stats
              SYD 2vs VIC 4 Stats
              Sun, 15 NovTimes shown AEDT
              BRI 1vs PER 0 Stats
              View All Fixtures
              Round 7
              Thu, 19 NovTimes shown AEDT
              VIC 2vs CCM 1 Stats
              Fri, 20 NovTimes shown AEDT
              BRI 1vs MCY 1 Stats
              Sat, 21 NovTimes shown AEDT
              WSW 2vs WEL 1 Stats
              PER 0vs SYD 0 Stats
              Sun, 22 NovTimes shown AEDT
              ADE 0vs NEW 0 Stats
              View All Fixtures
              Round 8
              Thu, 26 NovTimes shown AEDT
              SYD 0vs WEL 0 Stats
              Fri, 27 NovTimes shown AEDT
              MCY 5vs PER 1 Stats
              Sat, 28 NovTimes shown AEDT
              NEW 1vs BRI 1 Stats
              VIC 2vs ADE 1 Stats
              Sun, 29 NovTimes shown AEDT
              CCM 0vs WSW 2 Stats
              View All Fixtures
              Round 9
              Thu, 03 DecTimes shown AEDT
              CCM 1vs MCY 5 Stats
              Fri, 04 DecTimes shown AEDT
              SYD 1vs NEW 0 Stats
              Sat, 05 DecTimes shown AEDT
              WEL 2vs VIC 0 Stats
              WSW 2vs BRI 1 Stats
              Sun, 06 DecTimes shown AEDT
              ADE 1vs PER 0 Stats
              View All Fixtures
              Round 10
              Fri, 11 DecTimes shown AEDT
              ADE 2vs SYD 1 Stats
              Sat, 12 DecTimes shown AEDT
              BRI 2vs WEL 1 Stats
              WSW 2vs VIC 0 Stats
              PER 2vs CCM 1 Stats
              Sun, 13 DecTimes shown AEDT
              NEW 0vs MCY 4 Stats
              View All Fixtures
              Round 11
              Fri, 18 DecTimes shown AEDT
              NEW 0vs ADE 0 Stats
              Sat, 19 DecTimes shown AEDT
              WEL 1vs SYD 1 Stats
              MCY 2vs VIC 1 Stats
              PER 2vs WSW 2 Stats
              Sun, 20 DecTimes shown AEDT
              CCM 0vs BRI 1 Stats
              View All Fixtures
              Round 12
              Thu, 24 DecTimes shown AEDT
              WSW 2vs NEW 0 Stats
              Sat, 26 DecTimes shown AEDT
              ADE 3vs WEL 0 Stats
              SYD 4vs CCM 1 Stats
              Sun, 27 DecTimes shown AEDT
              VIC 1vs PER 1 Stats
              BRI 3vs MCY 1 Stats
              View All Fixtures
              Round 13
              Thu, 31 DecTimes shown AEDT
              CCM 3vs WEL 1 Stats
              Fri, 01 JanTimes shown AEDT
              WSW 0vs ADE 0 Stats
              Sat, 02 JanTimes shown AEDT
              BRI 2vs PER 1 Stats
              MCY 2vs SYD 2 Stats
              Sun, 03 JanTimes shown AEDT
              NEW 0vs VIC 1 Stats
              View All Fixtures
              Round 14
              Fri, 08 JanTimes shown AEDT
              CCM 3vs VIC 3 Stats
              Sat, 09 JanTimes shown AEDT
              SYD 2vs NEW 0 Stats
              MCY 3vs WSW 2 Stats
              PER 1vs ADE 3 Stats
              Sun, 10 JanTimes shown AEDT
              WEL 0vs BRI 0 Stats
              View All Fixtures
              Round 15
              Fri, 15 JanTimes shown AEDT
              VIC 4vs BRI 0 Stats
              Sat, 16 JanTimes shown AEDT
              ADE 3vs CCM 1 Stats
              WSW 1vs SYD 2 Stats
              PER 2vs MCY 2 Stats
              Sun, 17 JanTimes shown AEDT
              NEW 3vs WEL 1 Stats
              View All Fixtures
              Round 16
              Fri, 22 JanTimes shown AEDT
              BRI 1vs ADE 4 Stats
              Sat, 23 JanTimes shown AEDT
              CCM 1vs WSW 2 Stats
              Sun, 24 JanTimes shown AEDT
              NEW 1vs PER 6 Stats
              Mon, 25 JanTimes shown AEDT
              MCY 3vs WEL 1 Stats
              Tue, 26 JanTimes shown AEDT
              VIC 1vs SYD 0 Stats
              View All Fixtures
              Round 17
              Fri, 29 JanTimes shown AEDT
              WSW 4vs MCY 3 Stats
              Sat, 30 JanTimes shown AEDT
              WEL 1vs CCM 3 Stats
              SYD 1vs BRI 3 Stats
              PER 3vs VIC 2 Stats
              Sun, 31 JanTimes shown AEDT
              ADE 1vs NEW 0 Stats
              View All Fixtures
              Round 18
              Fri, 05 FebTimes shown AEDT
              ADE 2vs SYD 2 Stats
              Sat, 06 FebTimes shown AEDT
              BRI 4vs CCM 0 Stats
              VIC 1vs WSW 1 Stats
              Sun, 07 FebTimes shown AEDT
              WEL 0vs PER 1 Stats
              NEW 2vs MCY 1 Stats
              View All Fixtures
              Round 19
              Fri, 12 FebTimes shown AEDT
              BRI vs NEW 20:00Suncorp Stadium
              Sat, 13 FebTimes shown AEDT
              SYD vs PER 17:15Allianz Stadium
              MCY vs VIC 19:30AAMI Park
              Sun, 14 FebTimes shown AEDT
              CCM vs ADE 15:00Central Coast Stadium
              WSW vs WEL 17:00Pirtek Stadium
              View All Fixtures
              Round 20
              Fri, 19 FebTimes shown AEDT
              VIC vs ADE 19:40AAMI Park
              Sat, 20 FebTimes shown AEDT
              NEW vs WEL 17:15Hunter Stadium
              SYD vs WSW 19:30Allianz Stadium
              PER vs BRI 21:40nib Stadium
              Sun, 21 FebTimes shown AEDT
              MCY vs CCM 17:00AAMI Park
              View All Fixtures
              Round 21
              Fri, 26 FebTimes shown AEDT
              WEL vs MCY 17:30Westpac Stadium
              WSW vs PER 19:40Pirtek Stadium
              Sat, 27 FebTimes shown AEDT
              ADE vs BRI 17:15Coopers Stadium
              VIC vs SYD 19:30AAMI Park
              Sun, 28 FebTimes shown AEDT
              CCM vs NEW 17:00Central Coast Stadium
              View All Fixtures
              Round 22
              Fri, 04 MarTimes shown AEDT
              BRI vs WSW 20:00Suncorp Stadium
              Sat, 05 MarTimes shown AEDT
              WEL vs ADE 17:15Westpac Stadium
              MCY vs SYD 19:30AAMI Park
              Sun, 06 MarTimes shown AEDT
              CCM vs VIC 17:00Central Coast Stadium
              Mon, 07 MarTimes shown AEDT
              PER vs NEW 20:00nib Stadium
              View All Fixtures
              Round 23
              Fri, 11 MarTimes shown AEDT
              ADE vs MCY 19:40Coopers Stadium
              Sat, 12 MarTimes shown AEDT
              SYD vs WEL 17:15Allianz Stadium
              BRI vs VIC 19:30Suncorp Stadium
              PER vs CCM 21:40nib Stadium
              Sun, 13 MarTimes shown AEDT
              NEW vs WSW 17:00Hunter Stadium
              View All Fixtures
              Round 24
              Fri, 18 MarTimes shown AEDT
              MCY vs BRI 19:40AAMI Park
              Sat, 19 MarTimes shown AEDT
              CCM vs SYD 17:15Central Coast Stadium
              WSW vs ADE 19:30Pirtek Stadium
              Sun, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
              WEL vs PER 15:00Westpac Stadium
              VIC vs NEW 17:00AAMI Park
              View All Fixtures
              Round 25
              Fri, 25 MarTimes shown AEDT
              VIC vs WSW 19:40AAMI Park
              Sat, 26 MarTimes shown AEDT
              NEW vs PER 17:15Hunter Stadium
              BRI vs SYD 19:30Suncorp Stadium
              Sun, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
              ADE vs CCM 17:00Coopers Stadium
              Mon, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
              MCY vs WEL 19:30AAMI Park
              View All Fixtures
              Round 26
              Fri, 01 AprTimes shown AEDT
              WSW vs CCM 19:40Pirtek Stadium
              Sat, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
              WEL vs VIC 17:15Westpac Stadium
              SYD vs ADE 19:30Allianz Stadium
              Sun, 03 AprTimes shown AEST
              BRI vs NEW 17:00Suncorp Stadium
              PER vs MCY 19:00nib Stadium
              View All Fixtures
              Round 27
              Fri, 08 AprTimes shown AEST
              MCY vs ADE 19:40AAMI Park
              Sat, 09 AprTimes shown AEST
              CCM vs NEW 17:15Central Coast Stadium
              VIC vs BRI 19:30AAMI Park
              Sun, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
              WEL vs WSW 15:00Westpac Stadium
              SYD vs PER 17:00Allianz Stadium
              View All Fixtures
              Hyundai A - 2014-15 - Ladder
              Overall standings
              Team P W L +/- Pts
              Western Sydney Wanderers FC 18 10 4 10 34
              Brisbane Roar FC 18 10 4 9 34
              Melbourne City FC 18 8 6 11 28
              Melbourne Victory 18 8 6 6 28
              Sydney FC 18 7 4 5 28
              Adelaide United 18 7 5 3 27
              Perth Glory 18 6 8 -1 22
              Newcastle Jets 18 5 9 -12 19
              View all

              HuffPost Australia

              Featured advertisers