By Michael Church
HONGKONG (Reuters) – Former Australia coach Pim Verbeek has backed incumbent Bert van Marwijk to make a major impact with the Socceroos at the World Cup finals in Russia despite his fellow Dutchman only taking on the role in late January.
The much-travelled Van Marwijk was brought in as a temporary replacement for Ange Postecoglou, who stepped down in November despite securing the country’s qualification for a fourth straight finals.
With Van Marwijk confirmed less than five months before the World Cup kicks off, time has been of the essence but Verbeek believes his compatriot’s know-how and Australia’s experience with Dutch coaches means the combination should bear fruit.
“I think it’s a very good fit because, first of all, Dutch coaches have done well in Australia,” Verbeek told Reuters.
“The mentality is good. It’s a good combination,” added the 62-year-old, who took the Socceroos to the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa.
“Bert is very experienced, he’s been to the World Cup with Holland and he knows what to do and I think it’s a big challenge for him because in the end his preparation is three weeks before the World Cup starts.
“He has a plan and he knows what to do and he has good staff around him so I think they can do a job.”
Van Marwijk, who guided Saudi Arabia to this year’s finals before stepping down over a contract dispute, will be the third Dutch coach to take the Australians to a World Cup, following in the footsteps of Guus Hiddink and Verbeek.
Hiddink qualified the Socceroos for the Round of 16 in 2006, where they were narrowly defeated by eventual champions Italy, while Verbeek’s team just missed out on a place in the knockout phase four years later.
Van Marwijk’s side will start their 2018 campaign against France on June 16, before meeting Denmark and Peru in Group C of this year’s finals.
The 66-year-old is a coach Verbeek knows well with Van Marwijk succeeding him as coach at Fortuna Sittard in 1998.
From there, he went on to win the UEFA Cup with Feyenoord in 2002 before taking the Dutch to the World Cup final in 2010, and Verbeek believes a strong showing with Australia will be the perfect way for Van Marwijk to round out an impressive career.
“They have a tough group but he knew that before he signed,” Verbeek said. “For Bert, this is probably his last job, so he was willing to go to the World Cup and he’ll like the mentality of the Australian players, that fighting mentality they have.
“This would be a fantastic finish to his career and for Australia I think it’s good to have such an experienced coach.”
(Reporting by Michael Church; Editing by John O’Brien)