Former Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou has finally revealed why he made the stunning decision to quit his role, just months out from the World Cup.
The controversial manager suggested tension between himself and the game’s administration in Australia was central in his decision to quit his post, leaving Dutchman Bert van Marwijk to pick up the pieces.
In an wide-ranging article for Players Voice, the 52-year-old also said the Socceroos effort in Russia justified why he tried to get the team to play aggressive football, an approach that led to tension in the FFA (Football Federation Australia).
“I believed, wrongly in the end, that we had now entered a phase where we no longer had to feel under-appreciated or place ourselves in that most comfortable position, the eternal underdog,” Postecoglou wrote.
“Let’s now stand up and show that we could conquer that last bastion of our sport.
“By 2017, I came to the realisation that in fact, rather than me riding on a tidal wave of change, I was in essence on a personal crusade.
“That did not sit well with me. I was in the privileged position of leading my country and while I believed it was time to change the way we are perceived at home and abroad, the voices of discontent and the feeling of isolation told me I had probably got it wrong.
“What has happened and transpired since I left the position shows me my instincts were right.
“We still want to be the underdog.
“We want everyone to know that eight times out of ten we will be beaten by the very best, but that does not mean we can’t knock them off.
“After all we are Australians and we fear no one.”
The #Socceroos campaign was lost the moment Ange Postecoglou resigned. He was forced out by an opinionated media who thought his SUCCESS wasn't good enough and we were left with a coach who didn't know the players well enough to make critical tactical moves.
— NewyBear (@NewyBear) June 26, 2018
Meanwhile, the ritual bloodletting that comes with a World Cup exit is underway in earnest, but the Socceroos themselves believe they’re on the right path to succeed at their next major task – retaining the Asian Cup.
Australia were knocked out of the World Cup on Tuesday night in Sochi, falling to a 2-0 defeat at the hands of already-eliminated Peru.
The result left the Socceroos with a solitary point, earned with a 1-1 draw to Denmark.
It’s an improvement from the 2014 tournament, when Ange Postecoglou’s swashbuckling side won plenty of fans but lost each match.
And it’s a third straight group stage exit, following the 2010 heartbreak of missing on on goal difference.
That’s a sum total of one win and two draws in three World Cups.
And as a result, the finger-pointing back home has been savage.
A lack of youth development, the misuse of Tim Cahill and other squad members, and the tactical upheaval caused by Postecoglou’s resignation have all been cited for the early exit.
Bert van Marwijk’s pre-planned departure spares him from more savage scrutiny of his decisions during his short tenure.
Mark Milligan, repurposed as a centre back to be one of the Socceroos’ best in Russia, put it best when he described Australia as worthy competitors.
“I don’t think at any stage during this tournament we were dominated by another team,” he said.
“We fought tooth and nail to create our chances and we always just seemed to be a second off.
“It’s disappointing but I’m still extremely proud to be a part of this group.”
Perhaps the truth is that Australia isn’t one of the best 16 footballing nations of the world.
The Socceroos now return their gaze to Asia.
In January, Graham Arnold will lead a new-look side to the United Arab Emirates to compete for a title that Australia can realistically aim to win.
“The last time we played at home, we took every advantage and we ended up winning,” striker Tomi Juric said.
“It’s going to be a little bit different, a little bit more of a challenge. But you know us. We never turn away from a challenge.”
Aziz Behich backed the pathway set by van Marwijk, and the playing group he assembled, to show Arnold the way.
“We’re heading in the right direction,” he said.
“We’ve got a good group coming through and a few of them got a taste of what it is to be around our group in a big tournament.
“The Asian Cup is around the corner … we’d like to go back to back and win it again and I think we’ve got the group to do it.”