Some patience needed with the Socceroos

Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou surveys the landscape as his rebuilding team goes through its paces in the background. (AAP)

Ange Postecoglou was given a five-year licence to rebuild the Socceroos and he must be afforded patience as he continues that difficult task, even if one of the costs is a successful Asian Cup campaign on home soil.

As the Asian Cup nears and we become a little short of breath regarding Australia's expectations, I believe some of us need to take a chill pill.

There is a lingering conviction among a large number of football fans and sections of the commentariat that Australia has to win the Asian Cup before we can deem it a success. No it doesn't. What Australia needs is to build a team, which is a rather different thing, is far more important and may take a little longer.

Let's just go back a little and remind ourselves of where Australia's international stocks were not very long ago. In March last year Australia creaked to an uninspiring 2-2 draw in a home World Cup qualifier against Oman. It was woeful and serious doubts began to surface about Australia's ability to qualify for Brazil with three games to play.

Then Socceroos coach Holger Osieck, the penny having dropped, finally began to inject some youth into an ageing team. It got a brave 1-1 draw in Japan, beat the semi-amateur Jordanians 4-0 at home before securing qualification in Sydney with a 1-0 win over what was essentially Iraq's youth team, thanks to a late header by Josh Kennedy.

Then came two consecutive 6-0 losses in internationals against Brazil and France and Osieck was gone, the FFA top brass having finally concluded that Osieck's ageing team was a shambles and, ahead of the World Cup, we were in a bad way.

In came Ange Postecoglou with a mandate to clean up the mess, begin a new era with a blank sheet of paper and, with less than eight months to go before the World Cup, build a new team. Significantly Postecoglou was given a five-year contract taking him up to the 2018 World Cup, a statement spelling out that his job security was not dependent on what he achieved in Brazil or even in the 2015 Asian Cup. What mattered was that he needed to build a new team and that he had to be given the time to do it.

So this is where Australia finds itself, having a national team that is probably not even half baked, challenging for a tournament in January many think it has to win, and has a right to win, simply because it is hosting it.

Of course we can all draw our own conclusions about whether or not Postecoglou has gone about his rebuilding the right way. His win-loss stats in the 12 games he has been in charge don't make invigorating reading. He has been accommodating in accepting to play tough opponents, most of them away from home and against countries well above Australia's rank. The results sheet may have looked better if his team played Thailand instead of Ecuador or Indonesia instead of Belgium.

But this is Ange's gig and he must be given time and licence to do his job, implementing a five year plan according to his own blueprint.

What was critical at the outset was the new coach's need to change the team culture and attitude, from one of negativity and insecurity to one of belief and attacking ambition. This he did, almost overnight, even if team cohesion and tactical unity had to remain a long way off. And it's still probably some ways off.

We now have an Australian team again with an Australian attitude. It's a start.

Ange spoke a lot about wanting to have a wide pool of players, hence the need to still experiment 12 games into his tenure. Understood, but he will soon need to reach the end of the experimentation phase and settle on a stable team. The building of team cohesion at the expense of everything else will surely begin soon.

Postecoglou built a wonderful team at Brisbane Roar which also took time. But once he settled on his preferred eleven, whose game began to flow, he hardly ever changed it. It is difficult to see a successful Socceroos team emerging unless he does the same in his new job.

On this topic I am always reminded of the Frank Arok era across two World Cup campaigns in the 1980s. Arok openly declared that he was trying to build 'a club team' and, once he embarked on a campaign, he hardly ever tinkered with it. In the 1986 World Cup campaign he retained eight players from the starting lineup of his first qualifier against New Zealand for his last against Scotland.

It made sense, given that national teams play far fewer games than club teams and cohesion cannot be built with prolonged experimentation.

But these are matters for Ange Postecoglou, whose plans are further hampered by whether or not his preferred players are getting game time at their clubs. A good example is Jason Davidson who was a revelation in Brazil and is probably our best left back but appears to have lost his place because he's not getting regular starts at West Bromwich Albion.

There is no question about widespread concern with Australia's lowest ever FIFA ranking, now 102 and the tenth highest in the AFC. Soon this will bring damage to the Socceroos as a commercial brand. The team still has no naming sponsor and at this right is not likely to get one.

Yet, we must be patient and give the coach time and leeway in achieving his mandate which is not to win the Asian Cup but to build a lasting team within a four-year World Cup cycle.