The Socceroos are going to next year’s World Cup, but the identity of the coach who will lead them there remains the subject of conjecture. With the Australians’ passage to Russia confirmed with a win over Honduras in the second leg of their intercontinental World Cup qualifier, Ange Postecoglou stuck to the well-trodden path of refusing to confirm whether he would continue on as manager, or end his tenure.
At the end of October, he had told reporters he would “have a discussion” about his plans once the team sealed their qualification, after reports emerged he had decided to quit before the tournament in June next year.
With qualification settled on Wednesday night in Sydney, Postecoglou refused to commit one way or the other but the 52-year old did promise the decision “won’t take too long”.
“Right now its just about enjoying the moment,” he said. “I owe it to myself, particularly my family, my wife, my boys and my friends. What happens beyond here can be picked up tomorrow and we can decide then. I won’t take too long. I’ll sit down with the powers that be. But obviously I’m going to make sure I enjoy this first.”
When asked if it would be difficult to leave the team, who he has coached for nearly five years, he simply responded: “I guess so”.
It was a muted, reflective press conference, with Postecoglou rolling back the years to talk about his initial appointment, his first matches and the philosophy – of attacking, possession-based football – that he has tried to bring to the national team.
The match began, he said, with him showing the players his debut press conference from 2013. It ended with his future still uncertain. “[In 2013] I said we’re not going to take any backward steps, we’re going to be bold, we’re going to be ambitious,” he said. “With that comes some stumbles and some scrutiny.”
He hit back at reports that he was angry at the media or wearied by their criticism.
“People presume that I’ve been under siege or I feel under siege,” he said. “But for the most part I’ve had a lot of encouragement from the general public and a lot of people in the game, they just don’t happen to hold a microphone.
“This has been the greatest honour of my life … If people still think that I go around worrying about what other people say, trying to get some vindication, they’ve missed the last 20 years.”
Regardless of their coach’s uncertainty, Postecoglou said the squad’s preparation for the 2018 World Cup was well on track.
“A lot of the planning for the World Cup is in place. We’ve already got a training base, we’ve got a city we’re going to stay in. All that stuff was done 12 months ago. There isn’t another game until March. From that perspective there’s nothing of real urgency.
“It’s been a remarkable four years. Tonight when I saw them going for the second goal, saw them going for the third goal, its exactly the way I want my teams to play. And moving forward, it’s hopefully what will make people sit up and take notice.”
Speaking in October, Football Federation Australia chief executive David Gallop said the speculation had not been “ideal” in the lead-up to the crucial playoff qualifier. But after that, he said, “we need to make a decision”.