Australian soccer has always been slightly uncertain of itself. It stems from years of being the nation’s “backwater” sport, marginalized as a pastime for migrants who were “afraid” of the other more physical football codes such as rugby league, union, and AFL.
The national soccer league was plagued by administration and crowd issues and eventually scrapped in 2005 for the franchise-based A-League, where any links to the sport’s checkered past were abolished in favor of a shiny, idealistic future. Throughout this turbulence, the Socceroos have always painted themselves as plucky underdogs, fighting against their diminished place in the national sporting landscape.
This mindset of inferiority also stems from years of disappointment in World Cup qualification. They have been robbed, unlucky, and sometimes just plain bad across several decades of staring into the international abyss. Even after defying the odds to break a 32-year drought to not only qualify but perform well at the 2006 World Cup, the national team still cast itself as victims.
For many years under different coaches, this was characterized by a conservative, defense-first approach befitting of their assumed role as little guys in the world’s biggest sport.
It is within this context that Ange Postecoglou found himself when appointed manager following the sacking of Holger Osieck in the aftermath of two dismal 6-0 defeats to France and Brazil in September 2013, just nine months out from a World Cup for which Australia had qualified. Postecoglou’s mantra right from the start was to rejuvenate the squad and change the mentality of the team.