WITH Bert van Marwijk’s first match in charge of the Socceroos fast approaching, the Dutchman has addressed the media, insisting that not even his players know 100 percent of how he “want[s] to play.”
The Socceroos take on Norway in Oslo at 4am AEDT on Saturday morning, as a new era begins and the 66-year-old made clear four days of training was not enough time to even explain his full tactical ideas.
Van Marwijk also admitted he has kept the players in the dark about who will take to the park at the Ulevaal Stadion.
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“I haven’t told the players the line-up,” Van Marwijk said in his final press conference before the Norway clash.
“They will know for 80 per cent how I want to play, but not for 100 per cent.
“The most part [of the team selection] is how I want to play and which qualities I need.
“There are a few new players in the squad and I’m anxious to know how they will perform.”
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After four days in camp with his initial 26-man squad, Van Marwijk has spoken positively about the Australian playing group as he attempts to prepare them for a World Cup tilt.
“My first impression is very positive,” van Marwijk told media in Oslo.
“We already heard and knew the Australians had a good mentality, but my experience here is even more positive than I thought.
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“I’m also satisfied with the level of football [ability] I saw.”
And it appears the boss’ feelings are mutual amongst the playing squad; with Fox Sports’ man on the ground in Oslo, Daniel Garb, reporting that “the players are seriously enthused working under Bert van Marwijk.”
Garb added that the coaching staff are “really impressed with the standard, the professionalism, the morale and the mentality” of the Socceroos squad.
After a fourth day of training in brisk Norwegian conditions, Van Marwijk was joined by captain Mile Jedinak and assistant coach and Dutch legend Mark van Bommel in addressing the media ahead of the clash.
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Jedinak commented on the atmosphere in camp, with the gleam of a new manager and a new chance to impress spurring a level of excitement among the playing group.
“I think it’s only normal, when you have a new manager and new staff come in everybody wants to impress, everybody has to put their best foot forward and no one really wants to waste time in doing that,” the skipper said.
“We know we’ve got a long path ahead but there’s an opportunity there to get some really good work in and I think with that comes a lot of excitement. Overall we are preparing for a World Cup and it is something to be excited about, to do it with a new manager and a new way of doing it, I’m just as excited as anybody.”
Meanwhile, Van Marwijk’s lieutenant, former Barcelona, AC Milan and Bayern Munich enforcer Van Bommel pointed to a natural approach to building relationships with his players and confirmed Mathew Leckie’s suggestion that the Aussies would ditch Ange Postecoglou’s favoured three at the back for the Norway match.
“We try to speak with them. If you’re in the corridor or in the lobby but you don’t need to force it because then it’s a show. It has to be natural,” the assistant coach said.
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In terms of the formation change, the 40-year-old gave insight into the rational behind shifting to a 4-2-3-1 — insisting a back three risks leaving the defence exposed in wide areas, with four players better equipped at covering the 60 metres of width across the pitch.
“No, its not when you play with four you don’t want to lose. It’s the way of play and if a fullback is going forward then he play with three. But in the beginning we are with four because the pitch is more or less 60 metres wide so it’s difficult for three I think.”
While these matches against Norway and Colombia are billed as friendlies, Van Marwijk has asserted an intention to try to win every game.
“I want to win every game if possible; we will do everything to achieve that,” he said.
“But we met on Monday, everybody came from all over the world and some players travelled for 24 hours.
“So this is a period to get to know each other better – that’s the most important thing.
“It’s also dangerous to get too much information in the beginning.
“We tried to change some things but not too much.
“I think it’s too early to talk about expectations. I expect them to do what I want them to do.”
Van Bommel echoed his father-in-law’s comments, telling Garb that a win or two in the friendlies was important to “give the players a message that we’re on the right track, and the fans and the media that you’ve made a good choice in Australia about selecting the Van Marwijk team.”
The assistant coach also stressed the importance of a team mentality, taking the focus off individuals.
“If you have a good team, the individual players will be better,” van Bommel said .
“So we’re going to work on the team.
“If you only pick the eleven best players, you’re not a good team I think.”
The recently retired midfielder added that age won’t be a factor in deciding who would earn a ticket to Russia.
“Your age doesn’t matter, I’m 40, but unfortunately I don’t play anymore!
“If you’re 18 and you’re good, you’re going to play and if you’re 38 and you’re good, you’re going to play as well.”
“We’re here with 26 and we can go [to Russia] with 23,
“But we don’t close the door to anyone.”
Van Bommel continued to reinforce the notion that Australia aren’t heading to the World Cup to make up the numbers.
“Otherwise we can stay home,” he laughed.
“We’re going to try. We’re going to develop [the team] as soon as possible.
“Maybe [against Norway] not everything goes well but we’ll try to explain to [the team] as quickly as possible how we want to play.”