Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Pim in Retrospect
Of course, it's a little early to pass final judgement on his tenure with the World Cup still to come, but it's worth taking a broader look at his period in charge in the wake of the announcement. There are, after all, lessons to be learned for the future.
His stewardship of the national side is very difficult to assess, given that this is the first proper qualifying campaign Australia has ever faced. Virgin territory all around, and some doubt as to whether the Socceroos' limp performance at the 2007 Asian Cup represented their real standing in the region, given the poor preparation, the unfamiliar conditions and some players' apparent lack of effort.
Well, an Australian side with its European elite on board has no need to fear anyone in Asia unduly, that we know by now. The question remains: could it have been done with anyone in charge, or was Verbeek's acumen partly responsible?
I tend to think in retrospect that the job (to use a favourite word of Verbeek's) was an arduous one but perhaps not an overly difficult one, if that makes sense. The rigours of travel, unusual conditions (not to mention food) and personnel changes had their effect, but the comparative weakness of the opposition gave the Socceroos a major helping hand, as did a hefty slice of luck along the way.
Verbeek's first game in charge raised plenty of hopes; here was a coach prepared to stick two genuine strikers up front, and to allow the fullbacks to roam. It didn't last, of course. After scraping a dour draw in China, the Socceroos only ever played with the attacking intent they had shown against Qatar...against Qatar again.
Fortune continued to smile on Verbeek's charges: following that missed penalty in Kunming, there was Iraq's abysmal finishing in Brisbane, the unexpected late goal in Manama, the painfully one-sided 0-0 draw in Yokohama. And in the midst of it all...the 2011 Asian Cup qualifying campaign.
What should have been a formality turned into a nail-biting run to the finish, and despite the best efforts of Verbeek (and certain others) to blame it all on the A-League, his judgement was shown to be suspect on many occasions. The triple-digit shirt numbers on display against Kuwait in Canberra (and subsequently) told their own story, despite the laughable attempts by the FFA - inexplicably accepted without question by a compliant media - to claim that such shirt allocations were necessary. Verbeek evinced an undisguised contempt for the local competition from the outset, and his lack of tact in regard to the A-League was breathtaking at times.
He has even attracted some misplaced criticism for missing the A-League final last weekend, but he deserves far more criticism for systematically denigrating the local game in the eyes of the fans. Those praising the Dutchman for his "straight talking" were often blind to the slyly self-serving nature of his remarks.
On the plus side: he, like only Rale Rasic and Guus Hiddink before him, has overseen Australian qualification for the World Cup, and that is worthy of considerable credit despite all the above strictures. Whether he can provide the fans with a World Cup performance to be proud of is yet to be seen.
In finding a replacement, the FFA are bound to make Dutch nationality a sine qua non, but I'd like to make an alternative suggestion: how about Gabriel Calderon, the Argentinian whose Oman side made monkeys of the full-strength Socceroos in Bangkok in 2007? He has considerable experience in Asia, has tasted success at international level (guiding Saudi Arabia to the 2006 World Cup), and is currently at a loose end as far as I know, having left Saudi club Al-Ittihad in January. Worth a passing thought?
Pim has made mistakes - he was undoubtably cavalier about the Asian Cup and took time to get to grips with the A-League but some of the charges you're levelling here ("undisguised contempt"? Really?) are overly vinegared - he's become a much better communicator and astute employer of A-League players since that nadir in Canberra and that needs to be acknowledged.
I admit I'm surprised at some of the venom he gets on forums and the like - he's pragmatic and defensive, sure, but I'm happy to see that if it means less nail-biting, backs-to-the-wall desperate scraps. He's instilled caution and organisation where before we tended to recklessness and swashbuckling - it worked in the World Cup, sure, but it had to because we fell behind in every game - in any case our 2-1 win away to Oman shows that the doggedness and cussedness is still there, though hopefully we won't have to rely on it as much this time around.
Eh. Bit of a ramble, sorry.
No argument there, and of course they're well above the Fijis and the like, but the fact that we've often been technically outdone (especially away from home) and still come away with a result says a great deal for their finishing and general incisiveness, I feel. Ultimately there's no substitute for exposure to the toughest leagues, and until Asian countries can get their players "accepted" in Europe I reckon they'll always be lacking a certain killer punch, put it that way.
...("undisguised contempt"? Really?)...
Yep, I don't think that's overstating it at all. Some of the things he said (particularly around the time of the Indonesia away and Kuwait home games) were frankly unprofessional. And as I say, by and large they weren't seen for what they were - a ready-made excuse in case of failure.
...He's instilled caution and organisation where before we tended to recklessness and swashbuckling...
I'm not sure that was always the case (certainly wasn't under Eddie Thomson, for instance). The point for me is that in many cases the quality of the opposition meant that he could have taken a more positive approach.
...Eh. Bit of a ramble, sorry...
No apology necessary. :-)
I just can't shake the feeling that our eventually comfortable qualification had too much to do with the opposition being so poor in our third/penalty area for us to strongly think such a pragmatic campaign is the way forward. But that's me! In any case I look forward to some more Asian campaigns to get a really good idea of Asia and our best approach.
The game against Iraq in Brisbane, China away, Japan in Yokohama, almost the entire Asian Cup qualifier campaign... wasn't nail-biting?
This guy rode his luck entirely and the experience of a playing group, so familiar with one another after a decade together.
Pimms, in this juncture of Australian soccer history, was quite possibly the worst candidate for the job. He reinforced stereotypes of soccer in the eyes of the critical public and denigrated existed prejudice against the local game.
Pimms was a disaster.
i am very worried about scoring goals in SA and consequently do not expect us to progress there.
under Gus we played A league players in the Asian cup with one or two O/S players and won well. not under Pim.
That's not entirely fair, TBH. That team that won handsomely in Manama was mainly Euro second tier with a sprinkling of A-Leaguers.
A better reflection of Pim's management of the A-League troops is the fact that Arnie won 2-0 without much trouble against Kuwait in 2006 with an A-League eleven, while Pim had his HAL side lose to them (and deservedly, too) in Canberra only a few years later. And it's not as if the Kuwaitis had improved massively (or the A-Leaguers declined markedly) in that time.
Whether he did it as well as he could I will leave it to the more knowledgeable people on this blog. I do however want to say that the perhaps the FFA was caught short when Dick Advocaat turned down the appointment at the last moment, so it could have been worse.
Regarding Pim's comments on the A-League I think it was more his ignorance of how football is culturally positioned in Australia.
If a national coach of let's say an Asian/African country said that the local competitions were not as good or challenging as those in Europe it wouldn't have caused a ripple because he would have stated the bleeding obvious. Everyone would have known that. The difference is that more likely than not those would have been countries where football is the main game. Here in Australia, where the game still struggles for attention Pim's comments were used by football's enemies to put down the sport, something that perhaps Pim might not have been aware of.
In regards to the future, I know that going Dutch is now seen as 'not again'. But I had a soft spot for Johan Neeskens. He was our assistant coach under Hiddink so he knows Australia, he seemed quite committed to Australian football. He was the head coach of the Dutch B national team (which is no mean feat) and now he is assistant coach Galatasaray which has Kewell and Neil in it
And I prefer Pim's 'will we keep a clean sheet?' nail-biting to Arnold's 'how the fuck do we get out of this mess?' nailbiting.
To me, the HAL was clearly Pim's escape hatch if he lost or didn't qualify. Get in early so future employers know it wasn't your fault. The fact that it was on Fox and not SBS meant the TV audience for the 'qualification' match was a record for Fox audience of 400,000 but well short of the 2006 SBS effort of around 4 million.
I think we have found that full stadiums make exciting matches as much as exciting play.
The real story of the HAL this season is the 13,000 that Australia's largest city and double season champion could muster for the prelim. It also highlights the body blow to the HAL from what is going on at the Roar - the Roar got over 30,000 for the 2 times it made the semis under Farina.
Pim is a total success..in my view!
Why? Because unlike the fozmeister I'm a results based football fan over style everyday of the week.
and I don't want to spend the World Cup watching 32 other teams but smiling in our tactical stylish football revolution..where we just missed out!
and we are at the World Cup and Asia Cup and many are still having a go at Pim.
Look at our player pool? Hardly a Champions League player between them or a top top Premiership player. So we have a group of players who may get us thru Asia..with some tight games..as they did.
And yet people want style and attacking football. We don't have any real pace, and not a forward at the highest level of the game and yet people expect fun football?
I'd like Pim to have been a tad smarter in educating and promoting the local games and players..particularly around the Asia Cup ....and of course in this paranoid sports country all the NRL journos are looking to put their competitor the local A-League down. Pim, for them, was a god send.
Gus was dead jammy against Uruguay, Pim had a sterner, longer test and passed.
El Tel sutffed it against Iran, and we were dead sexy in the first half but it took me 9 years to recover, Gus stuffed it against Italy and 10 men. Will we ever get such a chance again to get to a Quarter/Semi? Pim has a tough road ahead..if he matches Gus he's a real hero but anyone who expects sexy football with our squad, dream on and that includes the Fozzie; Messi and Iniesta inspired barca loving SBS commentator
At the end of the day, in the short-term, you can only play the football your talent pool allows...honest Foz it's true.
And at the Socceroos level are we really gonna play "nice" football at the expense of results? El Tel tried that one!
We're at the World Cup. I lov yer Pim....but scared of what awaits beyond July!
I do agree that the Kuwait match was a black mark of Pim's coaching career but I don't believe those statements he made was made out of malice or self-serving.
first - i agree that an A-league team should never lose to Kuwait. For those people who believe the a-league isn't good enough, just refer to Arnold's team as well as Adelaide, Sydney and Newscastle performance in the ACL where we have sides that were pretty competitive with Japanese, Chinese and Korean clubs. We certainly don't see Kuwait and indonesian sides challenging for the ACL. Therefore Pim losing to Kuwait was poor coaching and was a text book example of poor motivational skills.
However, A lot of Pim statement was comparing a-league with europe not A-league with other asian teams. I remember when adelaide defeated Pohang steelers, Mike Cockerill asked Pim does that changed his stance on the a-league. Pim just responded no because he never compared A-league with Korea. I think if you pushed him he probably say that training in Europe is better then playing in K-league as well.
At no point did Pim blamed the A-league team not good enough to beat Asian opposition. After he lost to Kuwait. He didn't say it was because the A-league was rubbish and when asked about the qualities of the players, he said he believed they were good enough to beat Kuwait.
I don't believe his comments about the a-league were self-serving but more of a cultural difference and in the end self-defeating. His comment clearly demoralised the A-league players resulting in a dismal performance against Kuwait.
I do believe that Pim probably would have regreted some of the statement he made.
In the end Pim did stuff up with the comments but I don't believe it was due to selfishless but more of naivety more then anyone else. He was asked about why he picked bundesliga players who aren't playing regularly compared to A-league players who were playing regularly and he answered in truthful way.
The idea to used those statement to resolve Pim verbeek of all the blame for the defeat was the work of SBS and their agendas rather then a deliberate manipulation of the media.
He was a bad PR of the game. The decrease in crowds for the Melbourne game agaisnt Oman with a full strength socceroos was a direct result of Pim's style of football. that along with the China at home disaster that really damage the PR that football has with sydney.
People may argue that style of football is just the matter of taste but the taste of football fans in Australia are measured by crowd figures.
Let just hope we have a respectable world cup and grab someone else (apparently Rijkaard is being approached) who is better at handling the media and plays a bit more fluent football.
Think Pim vs. Iraq home and away in June 2008, think 1-1 head-to-head after a similar six-month build-up to the Iran '97 games which also ended level on aggregate and think how this time it thankfully (and quite rightly) qualification didn't just come down to two games.
It is hugely unfair to discredit the '97 side (and some of the others inbetween '74 and '06) when they didn't have the appropriate qualifying path we have now and did in '73, or the luck we had in '05.
I still haven't really recovered from the Iran games - I still can't watch the second leg and would trade a lot to have qualified for France - but I think it's a shame it's scarred so many people to discredit it in light of qualifying through a different type of qualifying path altogether.
I also hate the notion that everyone who criticises the football under Pim obviously want really gung-ho sexy football. All I want is just a bit of balance, like the first half vs. Qatar in Feb 2008 and some other brief moments under Pim. Was that first half vs. Qatar reckless football? No, we just got the balance right.
...anyone who expects sexy football with our squad, dream on and that includes the Fozzie; Messi and Iniesta inspired barca loving SBS commentator...
This is a straw man argument though, Eamonn. As Hiro says, it's all about balance: was it really necessary to play such dour football against the opposition we've faced?
...Gus was dead jammy against Uruguay, Pim had a sterner, longer test and passed....
Against opposition far inferior to Uruguay. But I won't deny that this was a campaign where we faced much greater logistical challenges.
and straw men rock. would they be used so often in so many discussions if they were not effective?
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I've heard a number of them expressed in other forums by some of the people contributing to the subject on TFT. Nice to hear some different ones.