TV host launches stunning attack on 'gutless' Socceroos
FORMER Socceroo Craig Foster has launched an extraordinary attack on Australian football following the national team's heartbreaking exit from the World Cup after a 2-0 loss to Peru on Wednesday morning (AEST).
Foster - who now works for SBS as a football analyst - was scathing of the approach that saw the Aussies finish bottom of Group C after they failed to score a goal from open play in three matches against France, Denmark and the Peruvians.
Foster said those in charge of developing the national team hadn't learnt anything in four years and made the same mistakes that were evident in a disastrous World Cup in Brazil in 2014 when we lost all three matches.
"There is no question that we could have done more," Foster said after full-time. "In my view, we haven't learnt from the last four years and we've come here and … according to the style of play, the guys executed it extremely well, but Australia's capable of more.
"We're capable of much more against Denmark and the real problem for Australia is that if we'd actually won this game and gone through … I would have preferred that France won, so that we can feel more pain right now.
"Otherwise it is just another moment where everyone feels we almost got there. We walk away. We dust ourselves off and learn very little, if anything, and then move on to the next campaign."
Former coach Ange Postecoglou was in charge of the side in Brazil four years ago and led the team all the way through qualifying for this tournament before he quit in late 2017. His philosophy was based around not just getting to a World Cup, but building a team and style of football that was capable of challenging the best sides in the world.
Once he walked away and coach Bert van Marwijk was installed as his successor in January, that plan appeared to be thrown out the window as the Dutchman said he was focused purely on results rather than style.
Foster accused the Socceroos of failing to take the challenge up to their opponents and said the way we performed in Russia was not the "Australian way".
"We threw out of a plan of four years and went with a completely different strategy and in the end, we should be looking at it and saying, 'When we went at these teams, we showed what we could do it,' but we didn't do it enough," Foster said.
"That wasn't the Australian way, no. That was the qualities of Australians - that's true. And the guys went and gave everything and you can see what they've spent in pursuit of making their nation proud. That's normal.
"We know these guys are capable of that, but that wasn't what we're capable of in terms of a football country. I can't accept that."
Foster refused to blame van Marwijk, saying in the past Australia has had a "gutless approach" to matches.
He also said the rest of Australia needs to be desperate for change if it doesn't want to be content with "gallant" defeats any longer, because without a groundswell of public opinion, everything would remain the same.
"It is not about van Marwijk - it is about us. We have to decide how we are going to approach these tournaments and we can say it was gallant and we had chances and we did, but it wasn't until the 75th minute that we decided to go and do something and we started to press them (Peru) in their half," Foster said.
"Against Denmark it was 1-1 and we speculated on that result and we never pressed them, not once.
"How many Australians are really feeling that they wanted this Socceroos team to go at Peru and really give it to them? That's the only important question here because if there is not enough, it's not going to happen and we're going to come back and do the same thing again.
"I have seen it too many times now, but if people don't feel it enough, it is not going to happen."
Foster's SBS colleague Lucy Zelic shared the football great's sadness.
"No one is happy. I would find it very difficult to believe that people watching this and the fashion in which we've crashed out of this tournament, not registering a single win, how can anybody be happy with that?" she said.
Ex-Socceroos defender Craig Moore, who commentated all of Australia's games for SBS, said the future of Australian football is grim unless some serious problems are addressed.
"Clearly, we weren't good enough in the areas where we needed to be in terms of defending the box with desperation and hunger and having the quality in the final third to kill game or change moments in games," Moore said.
"They will be extremely disappointed about that.
"The reality is that we're still not the team that we would like to be. From a lot of people in Australia we're still not the team that we would like to be and the future doesn't look rosy when you continue to not invest in your junior national teams.
"We're talking about a future in 20 years, 30 years, 50 years. If you're cutting (costs) and not resourcing and having the opportunity and having a plan, it doesn't look good."
AUSSIE CAMP RUES MISSED OPPORTUNITIES
Captain Mile Jedinak said he felt "empty" after the heartbreaking defeat.
"Disappointing is the word. Empty is another word. There is not a lot to say," he told SBS afterwards.
"It wasn't from the lack of effort. We created a lot. It felt like we did. It seemed to elude us that goal. Had we got one, we might have got a few more. But it wasn't meant to be."
Central defender Trent Sainsbury said the difference was Peru taking its chances even when Australia was the more dominant side.
"I wouldn't say that we had control, I would say we were on top, but at the same time the South American teams are always dangerous, off-the-cuff, so it is hard to read," he said.
"Two chances for them, pretty much half chances. They took the first one. The second one was a deflection and that was all they had I think the whole night."
Mathew Leckie said the Socceroos had a solid game plan but bemoaned the team's poor finishing.
"Over the course of the tournament, we looked very stable. Our game plan, tactics worked really well, and we competed with all the teams," Leckie said. "For a lot of the time, we were completely in control to get a result and it was just the small things that kept us from doing that.
"If you look at how it went today, we had a couple of chances and then Peru went down and scored at the first opportunity. When you are in the World Cup, it comes down to quality and we missed out with the chances that we had and that's when you get punished."
Van Marwijk only made one change to his starting XI across three games, a forced replacement when Andrew Nabbout was injured against Denmark. But he said he had no regrets at this stage and kept a settled line-up to allow his team to develop.
"I didn't change a lot, but that's one of the reasons a team can grow," he said.
Asked if the campaign was a success or a failure, he hedged. "Not a success but also not a failure," he said. "Everybody saw the way we performed and played we got a lot of compliments. Only compliments don't win games"
SOCIAL REACTION ISN'T KIND TO AUSSIES
Seriously though I can’t help but think Jamie Maclaren’s mobility, smart off-the-shoulder runs and killer striker’s instinct could have been the circuit breaker the Socceroos needed for the last ~12 months #AUSPER— Vince Rugari (@VinceRugari) June 26, 2018
If the Socceroos were a cricket team... We’d have four military medium pacers, an offie who can’t spin it and several batsmen who play with a straight bat but can’t hook or pull. #worldcup— Tom Morris (@tommorris32) June 26, 2018
Too late for this fading campaign of course, but perhaps a loss to Peru would actually cause some of the countless casuals watching tonight to actually question the FFA, who milk the "plucky Socceroos" angle for all its worth while ignoring wider issues #AUSPER #WorldCup— Daniel Brettig (@danbrettig) June 26, 2018
The Socceroos huffed and puffed, but in the end, to be brutally honest, were not good enough. The lack of a quality no 9 told in the end. Lot of soul searching to be done. But we have to be proud of the effort the lads gave.— Ray Gatt (@Gatty54) June 26, 2018