Answers needed over World Cup mutiny
John Duerden
15:00 AEST Thu Jun 23 2011

John Duerden has been described by BBC Radio as 'the voice of Asian football'. He's spent the past decade living in Asia, and now brings Wide World of Sports readers an inside view from the continent.
John Duerden
  Have your say on the 'Socceroos mutiny'.

It all seems a bit pointless a year after the event, but then a bit of drama never did the ratings any harm.

In a week that has seen various Australian national teams in action at overseas tournaments and some interesting developments at certain A-league clubs, the news has come to be dominated by reports of a dressing-room mutiny at the 2010 World Cup.

In his new book, Les Murray describes a players' revolt before Australia's opening game against Germany, one that resulted in a 4-0 defeat that was ultimately responsible for the Socceroos heading home after the group stage.

"After the coach, Dutchman Pim Verbeek, had addressed the players, naming his line-up and the strategy, the team captain, Lucas Neill, asked the coach to leave the change room while he addressed his colleagues," Murray wrote.

"Verbeek consented. On closing the door behind the coach, Neill erased Verbeek's scribbles on the whiteboard and told the players to 'ignore this bulls---' and 'play like we normally play'.

"In the confusion there was so much delay that the point was reached when a FIFA match official knocked on the Australian change room and, pointing to his watch, warned the Australians that if they didn’t take to the field immediately they would have to forfeit the match," Murray continued.

Craig Moore, who played in the game and endured a torrid time alongside Neill in defence, told The Australian that the allegations were: "Completely and totally false… 100 per cent. There was no wiping of the whiteboard, no talk of ignoring tactics. It did not happen."

Moore also said that leaving the players alone just before the match was always the case. "It was usual practice. That's when Lucas and others would start to gee each other up, to get everyone going."

I have no idea which version is true and Neill has yet to comment. I was at the final group game against Serbia and the mood in the Aussie camp seemed pretty good, if not very friendly to journalists, especially those from Down Under.

This was something of a surprise. Compared to many countries, the Socceroos get a very easy ride from their national media. You can see that from the reaction to the performances in South Africa. The coach got the blame for the defeat while the players got the credit for the two subsequent performances.

But if it is true that Neill did such things then it certainly puts that dark night in Durban in new light. Calling the coach's tactics "bulls---" and then telling the players to play a different way just before such a huge game is not the action of a disciplined and professional captain.

The question is, whose tactics did the players follow? Was it Verbeek's or Neill's. Whatever happened, it was a heavy defeat.

It is not often that you can point to an example of the English national team as one to follow but at the 1990 World Cup, after an uninspiring 1-1 opening game draw with Ireland, England's senior players visited head coach Bobby Robson and told him they wanted to play with a sweeper. This they did and only a semi-final penalty shootout defeat at the hands of Germany prevented an appearance in the final.

Robson denied this happened but the point is, if it did, the players went about it in the right way and even then, some disagreed with how they acted.

It is fair to say that Verbeek's tactics and style of play were less than exciting. Still, they had taken the team through qualification impressively. Being new to Asia, perhaps the Aussie media didn't know or didn't care about just how tough it can be to travel all over the continent in search of results. That a place in South Africa was never really in doubt does not automatically equate to Asia being a piece of cake.

All the players had ample opportunity during those long flights around Asia to have a word with the boss but instead they talked about his man-management skills and how the best entertainment they could give fans was to qualify for the World Cup.

Surely, given Verbeek's conservative nature, the fact that he was not going to be adventurous against Germany can't have been too much of a surprise to anyone.

This alleged revolt is shocking, however Neill deserves the chance to respond to these reports. More importantly, the fans who travelled to South Africa in impressive numbers deserve to know what happened.

What do you believe happened in the Socceroos dressing room?
What did you think of Pim Verbeek's tactics during his tenure as coach?
Do you think players should confront the coach?

User comments
hey, the germans also put 4 past england, and argentina, all in style. Not bad company to be in, but the point is Germany were that good n we ain't. Simple.
Les Murray will live on and Verbeek is gone. Whilst his record was outstanding he will be remembered for that Germany game. The reality is he didn't believe in our players and we paid the price. Thank god for Holger Osiek. What a breath of fresh air and has shown in a short time the faith he has in the A-League(Verbeek showed his contempt for the A-League). And has already produced international footballers in McKay, Kruse and Sasa O. We cant change the past but we can shape the future. There will always be one constant however....the great Les Murray and his love of the beautiful game.
What do you know about Les Murray? You're suggesting he is shallow saying he "will say anything to con people into buying his book"? Do you think he's stupid? Do you think he doesnt respect Lucas Neill, his playing and his actions. (whether it happened or not?) Why don't you read between the lines as to why it was said and or published. Les Murray doesnt need to make up anything to sell his book. He bases everything he says on what he believes to be fact, and in love and support of the game, especially when it comes to The Socceroos. I think many would agree that he's passionate and loyal, to the game and what he belives to be fact.
What do you believe happened in the Socceroos dressing room? No idea wasn't there, so hard for anyone to comment with any authority. What did you think of Pim Verbeek's tactics during his tenure as coach? Pim's tactics worked during the qualifying, and he would have had an understanding of what would work best when competing against Germany, I would expect the team to listen to Pim, and follow his instructions. Do you think players should confront the coach? Whilst Lucas and Co have much experience I do think it was the Coach's decision to make, not a player. This not saying the players can't approach the coach to discuss if there is disagreement. The coach takes responsibility for wins and losses and players are expected to listen they are the team and the coach is responsible for their performance.
I don't believe this. Lucas Neill is an excellent player and that's how he became the captain of Australia. I do believe something was going wrong with the tactics of the first game though. Tim Cahill should have never of been sent off. Yeah it was late but he was trying to pull out of it!
It's amazing to read that people are still going on about this. We lost against a great team (as did Argentina) and whatever tactics the coach wants to play the players are the one on the pitch. Pim got us were we wanted to be and that is the world cup also the Asian cup. Lets face it he did his job and we than blame him for 1 game??? We have a new coach. lets focus on the future and let the past rest, its gone forever, I still believe Pim deserves respect for his achievements. He was always honest and had the guts to be honest and say what nobody wanted to hear but what was the truth. Stop the blame game and lets kick some ass in the future
Australia didn't play like they were ignoring Pim, and Les needs to sell a book. You work it out...
If it's true, then I support Neil.
The players took australia to the world cup, Pim Verbeek is to blame for the loss to germany, playing negative football and players being sent off. And the players were the ones that got the results against the other teams. How does that sound? Like a witch hunt ? Why would he not care when a good result would benefit him also? Guus Hiddink signed with russia before the world cup of 2006 as well. Home grown coaches do not have the knowledge to get australia to the world cup. Thanks Pim for taking us there and with a bit of luck we could have gone a little further like in germany.
I understand that at the beginning of the world cup campaign the coach announced he would be quitting at the end? First mistake what this says is that he doesnt care about the result because he is off to pastures new.Would anybody show commitment to a boss who during the most import aspect of the teams aspirations announced he would be leaving the end? Soccer Australia should accept some responsibily appoint home grown coaches,the proof is in the English premier league.
If these news are true, then Lucas Neill should be sacked as the captain of the Socceroos with immediate effect. He is not the coach and doesn't know better than the coach. If Verbeek wanted to play conservative against Germany, he damn well knew why!.. just ask Diego Maradona and the Argentinian team.
What a load of crap. Lucas Neil would have never done this. He is a true professional, and like it or not, does what the boss tells him to. End of. Simple. Stop smearing the name of one of our true greats.
Who cares? At the end of the day, it didn't matter whose tactics the team followed. They still didn't have the personnel to beat Germany. Can't believe some of the players from that campaign are still talking about going around again for the next world old would they be by then? Over 40?
All that matters is the cancer of Aussie football is now gone. Ver Beek was a disgrace, and did not know or care for the team. At least with Holger he is showing he is not afraid to try new things and put us forward.
Les Murray will say anything to con people into buying his book.

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