Introducing Bert van Marwijk: The Man To Lead Socceroos In Russia

Ange Postecoglu shocked the nation when he resigned as Australia manager just six days after securing qualification for the World Cup. It seemed baffling to exit just before the big show, but Postecoglu grew sick of the intense pressure and scrutiny that come hand-in-hand with international management. A similar situation occurred in Saudi Arabia, where Bert van Marwijk guided the country to the 2018 World Cup Finals courtesy of a 1-0 victory over Japan. However, he left just after the job of qualifying was complete because he could not agree a new contract with the Saudi Arabian Football Association. Yet van Marwijk will be going to the World Cup after all as the FFA has appointed him as the new Socceroos manager. Chairman Steve Lowry was effusive in his praise of van Marwijk after announcing the news, calling the Dutchman a “world class” operator. “In Bert van Marwijk we have a manager who can achieve great things with this team,” said Lowry. “And we will ensure they have the resources necessary to give them the highest level of preparation.” World class might be a stretch, but on the surface, the 65-year-old coach’s credentials are certainly impressive. Van Marwijk’s greatest achievement came in 2010, when he took the Netherlands all the way to the World Cup final. They came up against a Spain side that was absolutely teeming with genuine world class talent from the Barcelona and Real Madrid ranks: Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, Xabi Alonso, Gerard Pique, Carles Puyol, Sergio Ramos, Iker Casillas, Joan Capdevilla, Pedro and David Villa. Spain were the huge favourites heading into the game, but the Dutch held firm and took them into extra-time. Iniesta finally won it in the 116th minute with a fine strike, by which point the Dutch were down to 10 men, but it was an extremely valiant performance. The Dutch topped a group that also contained Japan, Denmark and Cameroon, winning all three games and only conceding once. Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder put Slovakia to the sword in a 2-1 last 16 win, and they secured a famous 2-1 victory over Brazil in the quarter-finals. They got the better of Uruguay in a 3-2 semi-final win, with Robben and Sneijder once again excelling, but eventually ran out of steam in the final. Since then, however, things have not worked out particularly well for van Marwijk. The Netherlands lost all three group games at Euro 2012 and he left his job before he was sacked. He then took over as manager at German club Hamburg, but lasted just 143 days in the role before he was axed following a spell of eight straight defeats. He has since been with Saudi Arabia and faced Australia twice, drawing 2-2 in the first game and losing 3-2 in the second. However, he did lead the Saudis to their first World Cup appearance since 2006, and Lowry said “he knows a lot about our team and how they play because he studied them closely as an opposition manager in the same group”. However, the players feel they are heading into the unknown and Massimo Luongo is among the players to express his concern at the need to win over a new manager with just four months until the World Cup starts. Van Marwijk had modest success before taking over as Netherlands manager: he won the UEFA Cup in 2002 and the Dutch cup in 2008 with Feyenoord, and also led them to a runner-up finish in the Eredivisie along with a few third place finishes, but that is about it. He had a disastrous spell at Borussia Dortmund, so he is basically dining out on his time with the Netherlands national team. Prior to the disastrous Euro 2012 campaign, his results speak for themselves, but they also belie some of the most aesthetically unpleasant performances in Dutch footballing history. The Netherlands’ style under van Marwijk was based on brute force, with Nigel De Jong and Mark van Bommel sitting in front of the defence and soaking up pressure. They racked up yellow cards like they were going out of fashion, they battered opposing teams into submission and they basically trampled all over the Dutch tradition of total football. It was effective, but it is also the antithesis to the way Postecoglu had the Socceroos playing. The last boss instilled a cavalier attitude, urging his players to never take a backwards step, and they played exciting, expansive, if somewhat risky football. By contrast, van Marwijk is a pragmatist. He will not have long to stamp a completely different ethos on the team to the one they are used to, so his appointment is a leftfield decision that reflects the chaotic state of the Australian game. Check out the World Cup odds at Oddschecker and you will see that the Socceroos are huge underdogs in this tournament, and they are not even expected to get out of a group that also features France, Denmark and Peru. Under van Marwijk, they may be able to fight their way into the last 16, but do not expect them to play attractive football.

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