After his first, and perhaps only, week in Australia as Socceroos coach, what do we know about Bert van Marwijk?
10 Feb 2018 - 6:48 AM  UPDATED 10 Feb 2018 - 6:48 AM

He's a keen student of the game, in love with Pep Guardiola's Manchester City.

He's not too keen on the A-League, or bringing his squad back home for a farewell game in May.

Unlike possession-mad predecessor Ange Postecoglou, he's not philosophically wedded to any one strategy.

And he's hungry to win.

The Dutchman, selected by FFA to lead the Socceroos at their fourth successive FIFA World Cup, will return to the tournament for the first time since guiding his home nation to the 2010 decider against Spain.

The 65-year-old's introduction to the Australian public was a low-key affair with the effects of jet lag minimising his public outings.

After six days in Sydney, where he also managed to take in A-League matches in Newcastle and Gosford, Van Marwijk is back in Europe.

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The man who led Saudi Arabia to Russia before quitting last September will spend time casting an eye over the Socceroos' European-based players and has a good idea of what he values in his side.

"One of the most important things you need is speed, especially in this modern time," he said.

"The pitch is the same size as 100 years ago, but we are bigger, stronger, faster ... the tactics are better.

"So it's all about space. You have to play football within that space, use it. You have to create space for yourself."

Van Marwijk, who has two decades of coaching experience, uses the example of the runaway English Premier League leaders to make his point.

"Watch Manchester City. They are playing the best football in the world maybe at this time, at this moment," he said.

"They have always the most ball possession and still they score goals out of transition.

"Barcelona from Guardiola 10 years ago ... they never had transition goals. (There was) 22 players in one half and they play tiki-taka and score goals.

"You have to think, 'why did he do that?'

"I think he did (changed) because (at Barcelona) he had Messi and two, three other world class players who are individually very, very, very good.

"Now Guardiola is at City and," Van Marwijk pauses before clapping for dramatic effect, "they get the ball and they're out.

"There's more variation. But it's all about space."

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While Van Marwijk is a fan of City's system, he says he'll incorporate a structure that works for the players at his disposal.

To do that, he wants to eschew the farewell game that Australian fans have become accustomed to in favour of a warm weather training camp.

Spain and Portugal are possible destinations, with potential games in Europe also likely before the squad arrive at their base in Kazan ahead of the June 16 opener against France.

In Russia, Van Marwijk will carry plenty of personal motivation believing the efforts of his 2010 side are not given the respect he thinks they deserve.

Despite beating Brazil and Uruguay en route to the final, the side's pragmatic and often cynical approach is not remembered fondly in a nation where Total Football was born and demanded from their national team.

The defensive approach adopted in the final against Spain was labelled 'anti-football' by Dutch legend Johan Cruyff and Marwijk remains nonplussed at the attitude towards him at home.

"After that I went to (work in) Germany ... they celebrate me there. In Holland, you're a loser because you're second," he said.

"Such a small country and we deserved not (to win) the final but all the other games we were the best team so we deserved to win. But, that's typically Dutch.

"Cruyff visited us for one day so I spent a whole day with him talking about football and he never mentioned things like that.

"We had a lot of compliments. But in Holland, only a few."

After his whirlwind spell in Australia, you get the feeling Van Marwijk would like his trip to Russia to generate a few more compliments at home.

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