THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

31 March ~ Australians are finally coming to terms with their suffering at the hands of the Germans. As much as last year's 4-0 defeat in Durban hurt, the shame was somewhat healed by Tuesday's successful sortie into the engine room of German football. The 2-1 win, albeit in a friendly against an understrength home side, is the latest step in a German-led revival of Australian soccer. From that humiliating loss that derailed the 2010 World Cup campaign to the renaissance run at the Asian Cup in January, Germany has its fingerprints all over Australian football these days.

Leading the charge is Socceroos coach Holger Osieck, an assistant to Franz Beckenbauer when West Germany won the 1990 World Cup. Osieck was the surprise replacement to Dutchman Pim Verbeek after last year's World Cup, but with every match he is a more and more popular one.

For all his faults, Verbeek achieved a perfectly fine coaching record in his time at the Australian helm. But the "disaster in Durban" became a focal point for his critics, who saw the team's sudden lack of grit as an extension of his own dourness. Now under Osieck, the side is full of self-belief and fluency. The results have been more than impressive, with the Socceroos making it all the way to extra-time in the final of the Asian Cup and coming from behind to win in Mönchengladbach earlier this week.

But the Germanisation of Australian football isn't confined to the coaching bench. The Bundesliga is increasingly becoming the destination of choice for Australia's young talents. Mitch Langerak and Nikita Rukavystya are thriving at Borussia Dortmund and Hertha Berlin, the leaders of the first and second divisions respectively. Mathew Leckie and Robbie Kruse, two of the most promising young strikers of Australia's domestic A-League, have just signed for Borussia Mönchengladbach and Fortuna Düsseldorf. Meanwhile, the cult status of 17-year-old midfielder Mustafa Amini and his ginger afro has gone through the roof during his current trial at Dortmund, with the tabloid paper Bild making back-page news of his 'do.

The big mover in the other direction is Thomas Broich, the former Mönchengladbach, Cologne and Nuremburg midfielder who signed for Brisbane Roar in the off-season. Broich has been the key player for coach Ange Postecoglou, who this season transformed the A-League team from an outpost of old-fashioned, British-style rough-and-tumble into something more continental. "Roar-celona" won the double on the back of a record-breaking 28-game undefeated streak. That Broich was named their Player of the Season is testament to the Bavarian's influence. Happy days are here again. Just don't mention Pim Verbeek. Jack Kerr twitter.com/jckkrr

Comments (2)
Comment by G.Man 2011-03-31 11:57:33

The Aussie squad that competed (sort of) at the 1974 World Cup included a chap named Schäfer (as I remember it, a bit of a Billy Bremner lookalike). For the German press, that was the most pertinent news about the team. There might even have been a poster of that guy in kicker of Fussball Woche.

Comment by NSpence 2011-04-01 04:41:02

And he was similar on the field, too. A real hard man but an excellent distributor. He was a team-mate of the late and much respected Johnny Warren. Good on you, G. Man for recalling him. Manfred Schäfer had a fine career at St George Budapest and later became a coach. Nice site on the 1974 Australian team at http://www.ak-tsc.de/wc74-en.htm. I also recall a bunch of local (German) kids who got behind the 'Socceroos' in '74, much to the annoyance of 'Der Kaiser' (and probably their parents). One crashed a press conference and got ejected when he asked Beckenbauer what it had been like to play against Australia...given Uli Hoeness' prematch comments the other day, I guess some things don't change.

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