Van Marwijk Under No Illusions Anymore
It was never going to be easy for Bert van Marwijk, the Dutchman who has been thrust into the Australia manager’s job on a short term contract which goes only up to the end of the World Cup.
Only a few months ago he was planning for how best to tackle the tournament with Saudi Arabia but a falling out with the national FA saw him leave that job and get approached by the Australian hierarchy to lead the Socceroos to Russia.
After spending the early part of his time in the job assessing his players and assembling a coaching team, van Marwijk finally got to spend some time with his players over the last week or so. It didn’t exactly go to plan.
The Socceroos went into the half time break against Norway on Friday night in good shape, with the game finely poised at 1-1. From then on, it was a disaster.
Norway ran out comfortable 4-1 winners come the final whistle leaving van Marwijk needing to tinker with the plan (to say the least).
Optimists may say that the Socceroos will get better as they get used to returning to a flat back four and the removal of Ange Postecoglou’s infamous midfield box. Realists will say that Australia have to abandon much of their attacking intent and instead concentrate on working hard, limiting space to the opposition and trying to eek out narrow wins.
In that regard, things went to much more to plan against Colombia in London on Tuesday night. The Socceroos had to ride their luck at times in the second half but they managed to come away with a 0-0 draw that will at least give van Marwijk hope that his players are up to the (admittedly more limited) brief.
One of the most notable performances at Craven Cottage came from QPR midfielder, Massimo Luongo.
His work rate and desire to get on the ball at all times could see him become the driving force of the Socceroos midfield. With the potential for Aaron Mooy and Mile Jedinak to form a midfield three with Luongo, Australia at least have a solid base in the middle of the pitch for van Marwijk to build on.
Don’t expect that solid base to be a platform for the Socceroos to create attacks though. It became increasingly clear during the recent two friendlies that van Marwijk has told the two sitting midfielders to play close together and act as an extra line of defence.
Whatever tactics Australia employ in Russia, it’s not going to see them win the World Cup (they’re available at a best price of $401 with Unibet) but by sticking to their task and making life difficult for Denmark, Peru and France, van Marwijk hopes that Australia will be able to qualify from the group stage.
The early signs in Oslo were far from encouraging but van Marwijk at least showed that he has a plan for the Socceroos in London. With a bit more time and a lot more effort, that plan could just see Australia finish second in Group C, an outcome you can bet on at $6.00 with Palmerbet.