SYDNEY (Reuters) - An emotional Ange Postecoglou hailed Australia’s qualification for next year’s World Cup finals on Wednesday as a “fantastic achievement” but still would not confirm whether he would lead the squad to Russia.
The 52-year-old coach has passed up plenty of opportunities over the last month to rebut a media report that he was planning to step down from the job regardless of whether the Socceroos beat Honduras in their two-leg intercontinental playoff.
A hat-trick from skipper Mile Jedinak got the job done with a 3-1 victory in Sydney on Wednesday and while Postecoglou gave a hint that the pressures on his family were behind his vacillation, he was in no mood to clarify his position.
“Right now, it’s about enjoying the moment,” he said.
”I owe it to myself, and to my family, my friends. While I’ve got a thick skin, they’ve had to cop what I’ve been copping. It’s unfair on them.
”Tonight is just about enjoying it. Hopefully seeing their smiling faces. What happens beyond here can be picked up tomorrow.
“I’ll sit down with the powers that be. Obviously it’s important that the planning goes ahead. The draw’s not too far away. It won’t take too long. But I‘m going to make sure I enjoy this one first.”
Postecoglou took over less than a year before the last World Cup and led Australia in a creditable campaign in Brazil followed by an Asian Cup triumph on home soil early in 2015.
The former Brisbane Roar and Melbourne Victory coach came under fire for his switch to a three-man defensive lineup when the campaign to reach Russia faltered, however.
The criticism intensified when Australia missed out on automatic qualification and needed to beat Syria in an Asian playoff before taking on Honduras, racking up an unprecedented number of matches in a qualifying campaign.
“We did it the hard way, it’s been 22 hard games,” he added.
”Just seeing them in the dressing room now, it’s unreal. They’re happy, mate. They got what they deserved. It wasn’t by luck or by chance.
“They believed in something that we started, and right to the end they displayed the kind of resilience and belief that has made me proud all the way along.”
Postecoglou has frequently stressed how difficult it is to qualify for the World Cup and returned to the theme when asked about the likes of Italy, the Netherlands and Chile not getting to Russia.
“It’s a fantastic achievement and we shouldn’t take it for granted,” he said.
“We should appreciate that come June next year, there will be some very strong footballing nations that are going to be watching us while they’re on their lilos.”
And lest anyone should think that he walk away from the job was a decision he would take lightly, Postecoglou stressed what a privilege it had been for him to get the chance to do it.
”This has been the greatest honour of my life,“ he said. ”It’s overwhelming really. Coaching your own country has some advantages but there’s an extra layer of burden too.
“The one big disadvantage is that if things don’t go right there’s nowhere to hide, I’ve still got to live here.”
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by John O'Brien and Christian Radnedge