The key questions facing the Socceroos.
1. The next manager?
The FFA is receiving expressions of interest from all over the world. However, they are likely to have narrowed the search to no more than six or seven candidates. Guus Hiddink is the FFA's top choice but negotiations may be too fierce – he is wanted elsewhere and will command top dollar. Likewise, Marcelo Bielsa would require serious persuading. Roberto Di Matteo would be cheaper but has no international experience. Ange Postecoglou is clear local favourite with Graham Arnold and Tony Popovic mentioned. The days of Australia picking up a low-key journeyman, as they have done with Verbeek and Osieck, appear gone.
Lucas Neill: days as captain numbered? Photo: AFP
2. Local or foreign?
This is more a symbolic question than a functional one. If a local candidate is deemed to be the best available, then it should be a local. But if there is a clear candidate from overseas who is more capable, the FFA shouldn't discriminate on the basis of their passport. It seems a local manager would be appointed with a view to long-term rejuvenation, while a foreigner would be focused on the upcoming World Cup and short-term results.
3. Benefits of a short-term manager?
A gun-for-hire, such as Hiddink, would provide the Socceroos with the intangible X-factor they have so badly lacked in recent times. Not only would his presence on the sidelines embolden the players, but it would create a surge of public goodwill. That momentum could prove crucial in making Australia competitive in Brazil. The FFA are also considering a handover option: hiring a short-term foreigner, making a local his assistant (allowing the assistant to keep his A-League job) and then promoting the assistant after the World Cup in time for the 2015 Asian Cup.
4. Benefits of a long-term manager?
Giving a manager a multi-year deal would allow him to re-build the team from scratch, removing the old players and working the next generation into a highly competitive unit – one that could compete for honours at the 2015 Asian Cup on home soil and ensure a real shot at qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. However, it may mean seeing the team struggle at the 2014 World Cup, which may hurt football's desire to compete with the big two codes.
5. Style or substance?
Results are always the more important, but, equally, Osieck failed to create a style of play that would see the Socceroos break down superior teams in attack whilst keeping them at bay in defence. In the end, the style was based less on technical qualities and more on mental qualities, like a "fighting spirit". When it was clear that the "spirit" was exhausted after the Parisian embarrassment, it was obvious Osieck was out of ideas.
6. Are expectations unrealistic?
The hype around the A-League, qualifying for a third World Cup and the steady improvement around the game as a whole has underpinned increased expectation – especially among casual sports fans. Qualifying for Brazil 2014 was significant but that's the minimum public expectation these days. The lack of players in Europe's top leagues indicates the diminishing standard at the elite level when compared with the so-called "golden generation" of 2001-2010.
7. The captain if Lucas Neill is dumped?
If a change in culture is required, the Socceroos could do a lot worse than Mark Bresciano. He doesn't indulge in the arrogance which has infected the squad and has never taken the national shirt for granted – or leveraged it for personal financial gain. He's respected by all, leads by example, is popular with the fans and is honest with the media. He showed leadership in going on live television and apologising to the nation on Sunday night. He's still an excellent footballer, too.
8. Who are the most capable fringe players?
Matthew Spiranovic needs to get himself fit and ready with the Wanderers while Trent Sainsbury is doing his claims no harm. Shane Lowry deserves a look at left-back. Tomi Juric and Mitch Duke, who both scored on Saturday night, are worth monitoring. Ivan Franjic looked dazzling against Wellington – on the left, no less. Mathew Leckie and Nikita Rukavytsya shouldn't be forgotten. Unfortunately, Eli Babalj is struggling for game time in Holland.
9. Any silver lining from successive drubbings?
James Holland will never play at right-back again and David Carney now knows how far off the pace he is. Bizarrely, goalkeeper Mitchell Langerak actually enhanced his claims. That Osieck has now gone will see the end of players being picked on merit rather than familiarity. It should also help dissolve the overt dressing room power base of the older players.
10. Youth or experience?
Mark Bosnich says it's time Lucas Neill retired, while Postecoglou says he has never been let down when allowing youth a chance. Given the parlous state of the team now, surely there is nothing to lose by blooding some youngsters, something that stand-in coach Aurelio Vidmar is likely to do against Canada on Wednesday.
11. How far in Brazil?
Depends on the group, but a win and a draw could be enough to advance to the last 16. The new manager might just inspire the likes of Robbie Kruse, Tom Rogic, Rhys Williams, Mitch Langerak, Tommy Oar and James Holland to step up to the plate and play with nothing to lose. The triumphant post-match shirts from that magical night in November 2005 said it all: "Never say never".