Australia continues its Asia Cup qualifying campaign this week against Oman. As important as this competition is to the continued development of the game one can’t help feeling that there is a little of a laissez faire approach to the Asia Cup this time around.
Prior to the 2006 World Cup the players were excited by the prospect and wanted to go into Asia and win. However after full seasons in Europe, a World Cup in 2006, and back to their clubs for another full season the idea of another summer without time off when the Asia Cup came around, the idea suddenly wasn’t quite so appealing. Although the management at the tournament in 2007 left a lot to be desired the players were jaded.
This time Australia is faced with the prospect of possibly not qualifying. Is this again down to the European-based world-cup-bound players lack of enthusiasm to play two years of continuous football, or could it also be down to bad management once again.
We are lead to believe that Pim Verbeek’s contract with the Socceroos expires once they are knocked out of the World Cup. His bonus was based on making sure that the Socceroos qualified for the World Cup, which he has done. Yet nothing was written into his contract to encourage him to ensure that Australia also made the Asia Cup in 2011. Should he need that incentive? The answer is irrelevant. What is foolish is not ensuring that all concerned are focussed on ensuring Australia qualifies.
This tournament should be used to blood the next generation of Socceroos who are going to shape the pathway to Brazil in 2014. Results not necessarily being so important, but exposing up and coming players to playing in and against Asian opposition, so that they are prepared for the qualifying campaign for 2014.
A failure to qualify will be a massive body blow to the game in Australia, especially the Hyundai A league which needs the funds to filter down. But a failure to qualify will mean that the blooding of players to step into the shoes of the dual world cup qualifying players will be harder and take longer. It could have a profound effect on whether Australia is in Brazil in 2014.
Verbeek should have been given an incentive, and if he is not staying on his replacement lined up already, so that he will be ready should they qualify. To revert back to Graham Arnold again would be unacceptable.