Fire still burns for Socceroo’s Dutch coach
TOM SMITHIES DON’T be fooled by appearances. There is a fire that burns within Bert van Marwijk, for all the austerity of his look.
There’s more than one fire in fact; first there’s the spark that comes when the new Socceroos coach leaps from his chair in a Sydney hotel room to act out a particular tactic.
Then there’s the sudden flare of disdain when he de- scribes the slating he took from certain parts of Dutch football for the manner in which the Netherlands side he coached reached the World Cup final in 2010.
Eight years later, on the eve of coaching at another World Cup as Ange Postecoglou’s replacement, van Marwijk’s distaste is palpable at the memory of Johan Cruyff calling his tactics “anti-football”.
“After that I went to (work in) Germany and I was the vizeweltmeister, the “vice champion of the world” and they celebrate me there. In Holland, you’re a loser because you’re second.
“Such a small country and (apart from) the final, all the other games we were the best team so we deserved to win. But, that’s typically Dutch.
“Yeah, Cruyff … he visited us for one day so I spent a whole day with him talking about football and he never mentioned things like that.”
Van Marwijk talks of the need to have a system but be flexible within it.
“It’s much more difficult to play in the system and to teach the players what to do in every circumstance and within the system try to be flexible so you can surprise the opponent,” he said.
That’s an ambitious aim given that the World Cup is some four months away, and he is yet to even meet his players. The crucial thing, he says, is to get out of the group in Russia.
Then momentum can take over, as he found with the Netherlands in 2010.
“We didn’t have the best players but a really good team. We were improving every game,” he said.
“That’s the experience of a world championship.”