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Never mind the critics, this is the Socceroos

angesocceroosAnge Postecoglou’s stoicism in the face of criticism from certain corners of the world’s media highlights his deep-lying dedication to a cause that, while certainly achievable, seems so distant to the recent history of Australian football. While no points and nine goals conceded in our three group matches don’t make good reading, it need not be used as a stick to beat the Socceroos with, nor their manager.

We knew it was going to be a struggle. Frequent references to the heroics of New Zealand in 2010 aside, expectations were low. It is fair to say that the average fan wished only for competitive, passionate, meaningful performances from the team.

‘Some goals along the way would be nice’, we all thought.

‘Maybe we’ll find some future superstars as well’, some of us dreamed.

Sure enough, spirited performances and newfound faith in the team’s youth is what we received. Credit must as such go to Postecoglou, who in a handful of games has turned the prospects of the national team on its head.

The way he has brought the best out of names seldom heard previously, has demonstrated that he is able to translate the qualities that made him so successful domestically into the international arena. And while Tuesday morning’s performance against the dethroned world champions brought a rather anti-climactic ending to an otherwise strong, reputation-building tournament, the stats and the numbers shouldn’t be used to criticise. Rather, they should be seen as motivation for this young team to improve themselves, camp after camp, match after match, tournament after tournament.

It has been made positively clear that Ange is in it for the long run, so why judge him so harshly after nine games, three of which against top 20 opposition?

Something that particularly frustrates me is how the critics have been particularly quick on the draw against Mat Ryan, suggesting that he is unfit to be the replacement for Mark Schwarzer. What these people are forgetting is that he is 21 years old and is already a first choice keeper in a top-tier European League. Schwarzer did not achieve this until the 1998-99 season, where he played 34 league matches for Middlesbrough, aged 26. Moreover, these people overlook the fact that Ryan is the perfect option in a Postecoglou team, given his first touch and distribution belies his age. Most of all, he is confident in his abilities. Given time he will develop immensely and could quite possibly travel to another four World Cups.

Hence, to these critics I ask, who is the alternative? Wouldn’t it be ill-advised to bring forty-one year old Schwarzer as first-choice? Had Ange done so – or more likely, had Holger Osieck done so – he would quite literally have made history at the expense of giving experience to Ryan. What kind of message does that send out? Whether Schwarzer is currently better than Ryan is irrelevant, Ange is building for the future. Put him at fault for Holland’s third goal by all means, it was a mistake, but this shouldn’t be used as a means of reflecting upon Ange’s supposed ‘failed experiment’.

In my humble opinion, Ange’s next major undertaking is to find and develop a top-shelf number ten to replace the great Mark Bresciano. Whether that be Rogic, Da Silva or someone else its too early to say, but a true number ten can override a dearth of striking options. We need the kind of player that makes others improve…

At the end of the day (forgive the footballing cliché), the most important thing for the Socceroos is that time is on our side, reputations can continue to be forged, the return of players such as Rhys Williams, Robbie Kruse, Trent Sainsbury and Curtis Good will only help us improve. Expectations were superseded by what has been one of our most inexperienced, weakest eleven of the past twenty years. The Asian Cup in six months’ time provides us with an opportunity to cement our position as one of the continent’s powerhouses.

This new novel in the chronicles of Australian football history has just begun. Give it time and it will become a best-seller.

Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty

About the author

avatarAlessandro is an avid Sydney FC fan, and a contributor to Ultimate A-League.

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