Coach takes responsibility for Australia loss

Savaged by critics after Australia’s 4-0 thrashing by Germany at

the World Cup, Socceroos coach Pim Verbeek has accepted

responsibility for some curious selections and tactics.

Verbeek played several players out of position, left out some

regular starters and went into the match without a recognized

striker.

The changes backfired as Australia was routed by an impressive

Germany team which could have scored several more goals if not for

some glaring misses.

“I never blame my players,” Verbeek said. “I always look in

the mirror and think what decisions I made. I have no problem in

taking responsibility for the result.”

Seemingly intent on grinding out a draw, Verbeek left out

target-man forward Josh Kennedy and regular attacking midfielder

Mark Bresciano despite both being regulars in lead-up games, while

star forward Harry Kewell – who declared himself fit after a groin

injury – never came off the bench.

“If you lose 4-0 you can always say it didn’t help, but nobody

can prove we would have won if we had those players on the field,”

Verbeek said.

“They (Kennedy and Bresciano) didn’t do well in the last two

games. They didn’t do well in training – not well enough. The

players who were on the field were the better players – that’s the

reality.”

Verbeek said he had intended to bring Kewell on, but abandoned

that plan after midfielder Tim Cahill was sent off early in the

second half.

The defensive formation and unusual selections – including

regular central midfielder Jason Culina being played on the left

wing and midfielder Richard Garcia in an advanced position –

brought stinging criticism in Australia.

The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper headlined its story ‘Utter

Disaster’, and castigated the coach for making selection gambles in

his first World Cup match.

Former Australia goalkeeper Mark Bosnich expressed sympathy for

fans who had traveled to South Africa.

“These people have paid good money to come out here and they

deserve a good performance against Ghana (in the next group

game),” Bosnich said.

The ex-Aston Villa, Manchester United and Chelsea keeper said it

was time for the taciturn Verbeek to be more transparent in his

public comments and explanations.

“Verbeek has to come clean, he has to bring down this Berlin

Wall and start giving people some answers, because while we will

cop losing, it’s the manner in which you accept a loss that

counts,” Bosnich said.

Verbeek’s selections bewildered the Germans.

“We were wondering why Joshua Kennedy wasn’t playing,”

defender Arne Friedrich said. “They made it relatively easy for

us.”

Germany coach Joachim Loew was scathing in his assessment of

Australia’s performance.

“The Australians were rather defensive in their play, so we

tried to change the pace of the game,” Loew said. “If a team

defends with ten players then you have to be careful with your

plan.

“We decided to keep the ball low and create problems for their

defense. Australia is not the ultimate benchmark. We face tougher

opponents, even though Australia has been strong in the past.”

Verbeek announced in March that he would be leaving Australia

immediately after the World Cup to take up a position as youth

technical director in Morocco. It was a move seen as lacking

ambition in Australia but comes with a lower glare for a man not

always comfortable in the spotlight.

The 54-year-old started his coaching career in his native

Netherlands and enjoyed his first international experience as Guus

Hiddink’s assistant as South Korea reached the semifinals of the

2002 World Cup. Hiddink became a national hero in Australia when he

led it into the second round in 2006.

Verbeek took over as head coach of South Korea and then went to

Australia only after first choice Dick Advocaat jilted the

Socceroos at the last minute, despite agreeing to terms.

Verbeek favored a defensive system which brought him many

critics within the media and Socceroos’ fan base.

In Asian qualifying, Australia’s defenders kept 12 clean sheets,

but their old guard was found out Sunday.

“They had so many runners,” said 34-year-old defender Craig

Moore. “At times I felt I was between two or three players. That’s

very hard. Their movement was very good.”