It’s Atletico Australia as van Marwijk channels Simeone


Bert van Marwijk is hell-bent on turning Australia into an approximation of Atletico Madrid as their 2018 FIFA World Cup kick-off against France nears.

Using the improbable achievements of Atletico's spiritual leader Diego Simeone as an inspiration, the Dutchman is out to prove that a collective of varying talents can manifest their own form of greatness through tactical discipline and a dogged adherence to a rigid style.

He’s been relentlessly hammering home the message in the hope the Socceroos can channel Atletico's forbearance and fortitude against Les Bleus in Kazan on Saturday night (AEST).

Van Marwijk doesn’t have the calibre of an Antoine Griezmann at his disposal, nor anywhere near enough time to enact the scriptures that have been Simeone's trademark since 2011 at the Wanda Metropolitano.

But midfielder Jackson Irvine, who had a hand in both goals in Australia’s 2-1 warm-up win over Hungary last week, articulated what van Marwijk is trying to achieve with a collection of players hanging on his every utterance.

“Anybody who has watched Atletico will see how structured and disciplined they are in their shape - it doesn’t really change against whatever opposition they are playing against,” Irvine said.

“They are so well organised and press in a certain way and that’s what he is trying to instill into us as a squad.

“If you get it right then you don’t have to adapt to the opposition.

“It’s all about distance and communication and making sure you close lines.

“Atletico are one of the best in the world at it and it’s obviously tough to get right.”

Under Simeone’s sometimes manic leadership, Atletico have been both dynamic and durable.

After 377 games in charge Simeone boasts 233 wins, 200 clean sheets, eight finals and six trophies.

The silverware includes one La Liga title, one Copa del Rey victory and two UEFA Europa League successes.

Simeone's Atletico have also been a two-time UEFA Champions League finalist.

“You have seen over the last few games, in particular the Hungary match where the football wasn’t of the highest quality, that our winning mentality showed through at the end,” Irvine said.

“It shows in training in our young v old games which get quite competitive. And maybe that’s what gives you an edge at this level.”

Dutch journalist Martijn Krabbendam, of Football International magazine, is a close confidant of van Marwijk’s and recently wrote of his magnificent obsession with Simeone’s methods, and how Australia might be the beneficiaries.

“He watched PSV Eindhoven play Atletico a couple of years ago and saw something in the way they were playing that he liked.

“He thought he’d witnessed something new and became very interested in adopting it.

“He’s trying to develop this in his own way and bring the best out of Australia, which doesn’t have the very best players.

“It’s about not having the ball but still being competitive, staying compact and squeezing space.

“He wants his team to be able to still influence the game when they don’t have possession, which is what Atletico can do.

“That’s what Australia will need to do to get a result against France, and he’s using Atletico as an example to inspire them.”