Top 100 World Cup Moments (From the Aussie P.O.V.): 78-Verbeek Bores Australia Through to South Africa (2009)

Following Australia’s often tumultuous and unsuccessful campaigns qualifying through Oceania and then (most of the time) against a South American giant they finally had a clear yet challenging path through Asia after being accepted in to the AFC. After the resignation of Guus Hiddink and disastrous stint at their first Asian Cup under Graham Arnold the FFA went with local regional knowledge with former Hiddink assistant and then South Korean coach Pim Verbeek given the job mainly because of the Dutchman’s tutelage by Guus and knowledge on the perilous roads through Asia to the World Cup.

With much hype and memories of the wonderful moments in Germany still fresh the minds of us all the campaign kicked off in Melbourne in the first group stage. Australia would play tricky ties against Oman, China and Qatar in this first phase and were through before dropping two dead rubbers. In the final group stage Australia dominated welcoming back Scott Chipperfield and being successful but at the same time unflexible and a challenge to watch at times. It didn’t help that Verbeek criticised the A-League and claimed that it would take an hour to list everything that is wrong with the league.

Being all about how to win friends and influence people was not Verbeek’s way. Australia didn’t lose a match in the final group stage and defended stoically away from home with two defensive midfielders and a lone striker with tactics that could only be described as ‘Ross Lyonesque’. The trouble was the Socceroos also employed these same tactics at home to ensure they would be on their way to South Africa, which put some purists offside. With the usual drama of qualifying by the skin of our teeth or being denied in a normally self-inflicted, cruel way it was a strange feeling to almost stroll in to the World Cup under Verbeek.

We qualified not with a dramatic penalty shootout or last minute winner either. It was in the middle of the night with a drab 0-0 draw in Doha against Qatar with the World Cup still 12 months away and with two qualifying matches to go. A complete to opposite to any other time we’d made it. The Socceroos also conceded only 1 goal in the 8 games of the final group stage too. Impressive in hindsight.

You had to hand it to Verbeek, his job was to get Australia to the World Cup and he did that with interest. It’s memorable we managed to negotiate our way through Asia so well and a lot of it is down to ‘Aussie Pim’. There was a price for this stoic defending though and it would be exposed a year later in Durban against Germany.

About Dennis Gedling

RTR FM Presenter. Glory Guerrillas Producer and Co-Host. Contributer to Football Nation Radio and Football West. Worships at the feet of the mighty Cats, Socceroos, Matildas, West Perth, Glory and Glasgow's Green and White most of the time.

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