Sport Football New generation Socceroos for new generation fans
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New generation Socceroos for new generation fans

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Australia’s greatest footballing triumph has come with an added bonus – the knowledge that the Socceroos did it with such a fresh-faced squad.

Finally, a new generation has arrived after the previous one lingered too long and a succession of coaches failed to show faith in the eventual successors.

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In 120 minutes of sporting drama that rivalled anything seen by a team in Australian colours, they delivered the nation’s first major international football trophy and showed their time could be just as riveting a ride as we got from the class of 2006.

What is also wonderful is that newer lovers of the game, who are more familiar with overseas superstars or knowledgeable from bingeing on video game ‘FIFA’, now have their own fresh-faced breed of winners to love.

Mile Jedinak shows off the Asian Cup during celebrations in Sydney on Sunday. Photo: Getty
Mile Jedinak shows off the Asian Cup during celebrations in Sydney on Sunday. Photo: Getty

Mark Milligan, Ivan Franjic, Tomi Juric, Massimo Luongo, Trent Sainsbury, Maty Ryan, Matthew Leckie and Matthew Spiranovic were all integral parts of Australia’s Asian Cup victory, sealed with Saturday night’s 2-1 win against South Korea in the final.

Their Socceroos responsibility was handed to them by Postecoglou before, during and after the 2014 World Cup, experience they certainly would not have gained had Holger Osieck been in charge.

There was plenty of Golden Generation ‘old wood’ who would have loved to hang around during Postecoglou’s reign.

Think Mark Schwarzer, Lucas Neill, Sasa Ognenovski, Luke Wilkshire, Ante Covic, Alex Brosque, Brett Holman, Brett Emerton, Archie Thompson … and the list goes on.

But when you observe how this youthful side has performed at the Asian Cup, propped up by the experience of Mile Jedinak, Tim Cahill and Mark Bresciano, the question must be asked: why did we ever doubt Ange Postecoglou?

“I’m making these decision and I’m making them for a reason,” the coach said after October’s 1-0 loss to Qatar.

Massimo Luongo is the new face of Australian football. Photo: Getty
Massimo Luongo is the new face of Australian football. Photo: Getty

The comments came as the Socceroos slipped from the benchmark they set in a surprisingly fighting World Cup showing.

Loss after loss built up while goalless games accumulated, and when the goals did come they were more often than not from Cahill’s head or Jedinak’s penalties.

With only one reliable route to goal, an ever-changing squad and a frustrating lack of fluency, questions started to be asked of the coach.

Each press conference he sat there, steely-eyed and determined, telling the media and fans alike to wait, judge us on the Asian Cup because that’s where the boys will be ready.

Despite his resolve that we would see the fruits of such faith, pundits and supporters questioned his methods.

Even those devotees of Postecoglou’s coaching style and and passionate youth development, this writer included, questioned what kind of miracle would be needed for Australia to win the tournament.

We were proved wrong by a team led by Massimo Luongo, of all people.

Ange Postecoglou defied the critics and stuck to his plan. Photo: Getty
Ange Postecoglou defied the critics and stuck to his plan. Photo: Getty

Luongo not only emerged as the player of the tournament and the new darling of Socceroos supporters, he is also who we must build our team around for a tilt at getting to, and playing well at, the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Technical, tricky and damaging attacking midfielders are football’s most valuable commodity, and in Luongo we have stumbled upon a player of immense potential.

Along with Postecoglou’s masterful coaching, and Luongo’s magical arrival, there was one more subplot to savour.

Finally, after years of frustration with club and country, there was silverware for Cahill and Bresciano.

Both may have played their last games in green and gold and, as father figures of this squad, they ensured a backbone of seasoned skill was present for the younger ones to fall back on.

While Cahill could seemingly keep going forever and Bresciano still has the class to soldier on, their ‘Socceroo Sons’ no longer need such guidance because of the maturity they attained in toiling for the Asian Cup.

The one downer from a history-making night in Sydney is the Achilles injury to winger Robbie Kruse, who looks set to miss another 12 months after returning pre-tournament to the Socceroos after a knee reconstruction.

It’s a cruel blow for a man who at full flight is our best player.

Nevertheless, the Socceroos can now cover him. Nathan Burns and Tommy Oar, who had limited time at the Asian Cup, are more than suitable replacements.

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