SYDNEY (Reuters) - Ange Postecoglou will become the first Australian coach for four decades to lead the Socceroos into the World Cup finals next year after being confirmed as the successor to German Holger Osieck on Wednesday.
The 48-year-old was handed a five-year contract which will take him through next year’s finals in Brazil, Australia’s hosting of the 2015 Asian Cup and qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Football Federation Australia chairman Frank Lowy said the length of contract was an indication of the faith the FFA had in Postecoglou to build a team to represent Australia respectably on the international stage and ultimately to achieve regional supremacy.
“We gonna win the World Cup? No. But other than that we’re going to do very well,” Lowy told a news conference.
”He’s the right person for us at this stage of our development. In the last 10 years or so, we had coaches from overseas. That was the time for it then. Now it’s time for an Australian coach.
“The objective is definitely to be the number one team in Asia, we have the knowledge, we have the players and now we have the coach.”
With Lowy determined to appoint an Australian coach, Postecoglou won out in a three-horse race with former Socceroos coach Graham Arnold and Western Sydney Wanderers manager Tony Popovic.
Born in Athens before moving to Melbourne as a child, Postecoglou follows Yugoslav-born Rale Rasic, who led the team at the 1974 World Cup, as the second Australian coach to take the national side to soccer’s showpiece event.
A former national youth team coach, he won back-to-back A-league titles with the Brisbane Roar before a move last year to Melbourne Victory.
While Postecoglou said his aim would be to make Australia “world class off the field”, his first task will be to restore some confidence to the squad after back-to-back 6-0 defeats to Brazil and France which brought about the sacking of Osieck.
Postecoglou said he did not think those results were “an accurate reflection” of Australia’s current standing and dismissed any talk of damage limitation for the 57th ranked Socceroos at the World Cup.
“If I was into damage limitation, I wouldn’t be sitting here to be honest,” he said.
”The World Cup is an exciting time. When that comes around, I want people excited about watching our national team play.
“Our goal between now and then is restoring some hope in that. I‘m here because I believe I can improve our world standing.”
Osieck looked certain to follow Dutchmen Guus Hiddink (2006) and Pim Verbeek (2010) by taking charge of the Australian squad at next year’s World Cup finals after sealing a place in Brazil in June.
A lacklustre qualifying campaign followed by the heavy defeats in friendlies, combined with his failure to rejuvenate an ageing team, led to the unpopular German’s exit, however.
The search for Osieck’s successor was undertaken in an atmosphere of hostility to what were described in the local media as “mediocre mercenaries” from abroad.
Postecoglou will take charge of the Australia team for the first time in a friendly against Costa Rica in Sydney on November 19.
“Obviously with the World Cup literally round the corner, that will be the early focus,” he said.
”To make sure that we take a team there where the players feel good about representing their country to the best of their ability.
“The Asian Cup is an opportunity to host an international tournament and hopefully do well. Our national team hasn’t raised any silverware, it would be great for that to happen.”
additional reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by John O'Brien