Socceroos head coach Ange Postecoglou urges Asian football nations to believe in themselves
Asian football nations need to play to their strengths and not think of themselves as “second class citizens”, according to Australia head coach Ange Postecoglou.
The Socceroos’ supremo was the special guest speaker at the first ever National Coaches Conference in Kuala Lumpur, organised by AFC Technical Director, Andy Roxburgh.
More than 70 coaches, assistants and technical directors from Asia’s top football nations are attending the three-day conference this week, entitled ‘AFC Asian Cup and Beyond’.
Postecoglou explained that Australia’s breakthrough tournament victory on home soil in January only happened after they cast aside an inferiority complex, which could serve as a lesson to all AFC nations.
“The biggest difference between Asian nations and the rest of the world comes down to mentality,” he said.
“Sometimes our mentality is that we are second class citizens. Too often we focus on our weaknesses but we have to believe in our strengths and back ourselves.”
Instead of feeling that they can’t compete with top European or South American teams at international tournaments, Postecoglou urged Asian countries to find a way.
“In this region, we have some nations with really big strengths but they don’t always play to them,” he said.
“For example, the World Cup is usually played in the summer, in heat and humidity, similar to this part of the world. European nations try to slow down the games, but we should try to speed them up.”
Postecoglou explains that Australia’s tough learning curve at the 2014 World Cup — they lost consecutive matches to Chile, Netherlands and Spain, conceding nine goals in the process — toughened them up for the 2015 Asian Cup seven months later.
“We grew as a team and made progress even though we lost all of the games,” he said. “We tried to be an attacking and pro-active team. We took it to the Dutch [in a 3-2 defeat] and were unlucky not to get something out of that game. It built belief for what was ahead.
“It’s really important to stick to your core beliefs.”
Only one Asian nation — 41st ranked Iran — is in the top 50 of the FIFA rankings. Australia are the fourth highest Asian nation at 61st.
But Postecoglou predicated that the European and South American stranglehold on world football would be broken within 25 years.
“I believe that in the next five or six World Cups, a confederation from outside Europe or South America will win it,” he said. “We need to start that process straight away in Asia and we have to believe that we can do it.”
With his October 2013 appointment as Socceroos’ coach, Postecoglou is coming up to his second year anniversary as Australia prepare for next month’s AFC World Cup qualifiers against Bangladesh and Tajikistan.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” he said of his national tenure so far. “You don’t get much time to reflect because there’s always something around the corner. After the whole Asian Cup experience, this (conference) brings it all back into focus for me but we’ve well and truly moved on.
“You always look forward as a coach but we’ve made some progress, which is pleasing.”
Postecoglou revealed that he was a Liverpool fan growing up in Melbourne. It was the attacking instincts of the great Reds’ sides of the 1970s and 1980s that helped build his current coaching philosophy.
“The way they played was all about possession football which really resonated with me,” he said. “I loved that they won things playing in a certain way.”
He added that current Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola — who claimed 14 major trophies in charge of an all-conquering Barcelona side — was a modern coach that he looked up to.
Former Liverpool and France head coach Gerard Houllier, a specially invited guest speaker, addressed the conference on Wednesday, alongside his former Manchester United adversary, Carlos Queiroz. The ex-United assistant, under Sir Alex Ferguson, is head coach of Iran.
The other coaches in attendance include China boss Alain Perrin, Japan coach Vahid Halilhodzic, Philippines manager Thomas Dooley and India’s Stephen Constantine.
* Former Herald journalist Jason Dasey is Singapore-based Senior Editor of global football website: www.espnfc.com
The story Socceroos head coach Ange Postecoglou urges Asian football nations to believe in themselves first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.