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Guus Hiddink Q&A

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N INTERVIEW with Guus Hiddink
doesn’t feel like an interview;
it feels more like a chat. The

competition might be hindering the Socceroos’

ambitions. He also looks back fondly on his time
in charge, and outlines what makes the physical
the So nd the state Dutchman is such a large, Australians different to players around the world.

flaws a e right now soothing, unhurried presence “Australia was just rough in a good way, and that’s
the ga
that time seems to stop when he’s around. A born reflected in their football,” Hiddink says. “The first
networker, he’s always keen to connect with people. training sessions I took with them, I could have
We speak in Istanbul, where he’s now coaching handed out legions of yellow cards. The attitude
Turkey – his last coaching job, he thinks – but to of the people is, ‘Fight.’ And that’s what they did.
this man of the world, geography is insignificant. They kicked each other in training sessions!”
In his natural habitat, the five-star hotel lobby, over Hiddink analyses the World Cup failings of
his ritual drink, the cappuccino, Hiddink sits back England and Holland and gives a rare insight into
and reflects at length on football today. Few bring player management, including how he tried to make
as much experience to the table as the 64-year-old Frank Lampard into a more efficient player. He
who took Australia into the second round of the names the best team he has coached and why he
2006 tournament and has a glittering CV which also has little time for the new waves of data available
includes Real Madrid, Chelsea, Netherlands, South to modern-day coaches.
Korea and Russia. Always blunt, hugely entertaining and a blindingly
Echoing the criticisms of the A-League by Pim brilliant thinker on the game, what follows is Hiddink
Verbeek, Hiddink tells us that Australia’s domestic at his best.

+ Was 2010 the World Cup of faster, sometimes just ran forward. But even Germany the right moments with the right speed in the right + You mean it won’t be simple to achieve you can use to achieve a goal, and which methods you
harder, stronger? wasn’t revolutionary. What they did has been done direction. I prefer looking at DVDs that show the whole that with players from the A-League? can’t use. It’s the same with Brazilians: you mustn’t
I didn’t think it was the most enjoyable World Cup. by other countries before – for instance by Holland. I field. Then I can see the distances between players, Yes. insult them in front of a group. Well, you can do that to
don’t know if revolutions are still possible in football. or between lines. I can do more with that. Or you use a Hollander or Australian: one time, boom. Even if there
+ Were there no players you enjoyed watching? film to work with players on, ‘How do you defend one + Have you discussed this with Frank Lowy? are three or four other people present you can make
I thought Lionel Messi promised a lot at first, but of + What do you mean when you say ‘revolutions’? against one?’ or ‘How do you attack one on one?’ The No, not with Frank Lowy. Every now and then I talk demands – mutually, really. They aren’t so easily hurt.
course his team probably wasn’t in balance, so they A revolution is: everyone gets a fright. People are physical side of the data isn’t my thing. to Phil Wolanski, who’s sort of his right hand – well, Australia was just rough in a good way, and that’s
got blows. Otherwise I didn’t see much that made me completely surprised. Like (Holland’s football in) 1974. “right hand”, I don’t want to be denigrating. He’s a reflected in their football too. The first training sessions I
think, ‘Gosh, I’ve really seen something new here.’ Or Milan with (Franco) Baresi: the whole team going + Apparently there were conflicts within the very good man who’s close to the team. took with them, I could have handed out legions of yellow
Germany looked good against England, but how forward like a steamroller without having the ball. 2010 Socceroos after they lost their first match cards. So the components of their football weren’t in
would the game finish if the old people of FIFA’s Rules 4-0 to Germany. + When you talk about your experiences with balance: the players’ effort was way above their strategic-
Committee had allowed [Frank] Lampard’s goal? + Perhaps the new computerised data on Of course that result was a shock in Australia. Viewing Australia, you always say how easy you found tactical thinking and acting. And added to that, the
(Lampard’s shot bounced over the German goal line, kilometres, number of tackles etcetera will it from a distance, and thinking like a sportsman: the players to deal with. Why was that? attitude of the people is, ‘Fight.’ And that’s what they did.
but the referee didn’t give a goal and play continued.) If create the next tactical revolution. What can a maybe they hadn’t even expected it of Germany, the I thought they were very nice to work with. (Hiddink laughs fondly.) They kicked each other in training
there’s a camera in the goal, it’s 2-2. Still, the Germans coach learn from those data? light-footed way that Germany played them apart. Uncomplicated. I didn’t have to use a careful, sessions. And they could take it, you see, because
played well. And Holland in the second half against To be honest I don’t look at them much. The average roundabout initial approach that you sometimes need that’s what they’re used to. If that happened in Holland,
Brazil. You saw Germany’s very fast positional play. distance the team ran – those aren’t data I can do + The Germans did to the Australians what they in other cultures. In Korean or Japanese culture, for there’d be a brawl in training. But with Australians it’s,
Now they can vary the tempo well. In the past they much with. You don’t know whether they ran at later did to England: they never gave these big instance, you have to think first about which methods ‘No worries.’ They accept it of each other. Sometimes I’d

Celebrating with the FA

defenders a chance to tackle anyone, just passed Cup in 2009 and with
around them and ran into space. Chelsea star Michael
Yes, they saw that well. If you have the strength that Essien, above left

“The Socceroos side of Australians have in the one-on-one duel, then you
as the opposing coach know you have to avoid that.

2006 wasn’t so different There’s nothing more irritating for someone who has a
lot of strength, who wants to tackle, to give him nothing

from this recent one. to hold on to, to not give him a chance to battle for the
ball. That’ll really frustrate him. And if the frustration

You can conclude that seeps into five or six positions in the team or even
more, then it’s a lost cause.

the supply of younger And there was something else I think you could
see in the Australian team: the side of 2006 wasn’t so

players isn’t enough”

different from this recent one. I think it was 80 or 90 per
cent the same players. You can practically conclude
from that that the supply of 21, 20, 18, 19-year-old
players isn’t enough. Otherwise I think there’d have
been more competition for places.

+ Yet with Australia, not an abnormally talented

side, you nearly beat Italy in the second round
in 2006. How is that possible? Can countries
like South Korea who you coached in 2002 and
Australia one day even go one step further?
I think it all has to do with youth systems. And with
how competitive your league is, because if you look at
Australia, all the players who achieved that at the time,
who raised their performance, were already playing
for European clubs – even if not for top ones. The
guys who are coming up in Australia now are playing
in their own league, and they’re not encountering
significant opposition every week, let alone every four
days. So that’s problematic for those countries.

+You mean that the A-League could

disadvantage Australia, by keeping the
best players at home?
For the country itself, it’s always a nice thing to have.
But to create a very competitive national team that’s
going to make the global top 20 won’t be simple that
way, I think.

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of, ‘We’re coming out of our cave to get you.’ You
shouldn’t do that. I even felt [in the final] that we were
being protected.

+ By the referee Howard Webb, you mean? “The Netherlands ‘98 team had
so much. I’d stand there at training

and in matches just enjoying the

+ Meaning that he could have sent off multiple
Dutch players?
That was possible. And you don’t need intimidation
against Spain. You don’t believe it intimidates them,
do you? Deep down they think, ‘We’re going to play
level . . . and later at Chelsea
these guys off the park.’
I also got the sense: ‘Hey, this
+ What about England’s continuing failure at
big tournaments. Is their problem a lack of team is almost unbeatable’”
football intellect?
I did think England were disappointing in that regard. If
you look at [Gareth] Barry, he could have played more
intelligently. He ends up swimming because he’s not
coaching (talking to teammates) in midfield, and so is
forced into playing left-back or right-back. You don’t
see that internal coordination in the English team. You
can use weird words like ‘chemistry’, but you didn’t see
that Heskey and Rooney were a forward partnership
that gelled, even though they’ve perhaps played
together a lot and certainly know each other from the
English league. The centre of your team, defensive
midfield and central defence, is really the nerve centre.
England’s wasn’t sending out any impulses saying,
‘This is how we must do it.’ You can see if coaching is
happening, and there was none or almost none.

+ You managed English internationals like John

Terry and Frank Lampard at Chelsea, where
they do play well. Is it because there they play
alongside foreigners?
Terry does coach. Frank is more a box-to-box player,
who wants to go everywhere. At training I sometimes
limited him: ‘that’s your zone, that’s your task.’ Frank
Hiddink during his has so much energy and drive that he often does
reign with Netherlands too much. In my early period with Chelsea too: he’d
at the 1998 World Cup

think, ‘Oh, look at what’s happening on the field now, World Cup as a supporter watching on TV, in Holland, come to his own defence to get the ball, worm his sort of screen around them. Others think, ‘Oh, I can’t career be winning the European Cup with
in two seconds those guys are going to hit each other.’ with a lot of people in my house. I was sometimes way through midfield and then often actually end up touch him or make demands on someone who’s such little PSV Eindhoven in 1988, or working
And they didn’t. Of course you don’t want to throw disappointed that we didn’t see a better World Cup scoring, in his energy-eating style. I’ve sat down with a big name in England.’ with Holland of 1998?
all that away, but you do add some tactical-strategic from them. him, and said, ‘We should be capable of building up I think the latter. If you look at how that match was
exercises in training sessions, and then you first have ourselves from the back and getting the ball to you + Was the Dutch team of the 1998 World Cup, played [the European Cup final of 1988], it wasn’t
to take three steps back to explain it all. + Many observers were upset with the Dutch later, so that it’s easier for you to get through a season which lost the semi on penalties against Brazil, a top match at all. Benfica didn’t want to play, and
tactics against Spain in the final, were the fouls of 60 games.’ And he’d say, ‘I never thought of that.’ the best side you ever worked with? we couldn’t completely make use of that, so you get
+ Did Holland’s play at the World Cup unacceptable? Yes, that team had so much. I’d stand there at training a careful, probing, toe-curling match. Constantly
disappoint you? Yes. At a certain point you were reminded of the days + So when Englishmen are going everywhere and in matches just enjoying the level. You can’t tell working with the top is the most beautiful.
Well, against Brazil, when we were 1-0 down, should when there were still pitched battles, like when Coen to get the ball, you get Steven Gerrard running the boys that every minute. But it was so subtle:
have been 2-0, Holland felt the need: we must do Moulijn [a Feyenoord winger of the 1960s] was being 20 metres with the ball while the opposition’s small space, big space, superintelligent, based on + But now, with Turkey, like previously
more here or it’s over. Then I recognised how Holland chased across the field by Real Madrid. In those days, defence is already in place waiting. speed. And later with Chelsea I also got the sense: with Australia, you’ve chosen to work with
really should – [he trails off, presumably reluctant to if it was the World Club Cup, the shivers would go I think so. There you can see if a team has ‘Hey, this team is almost unbeatable.’ We lost one a team that isn’t top.
insult the Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk] You hear it through you because the intimidation was going to agreements about particular patterns. Apparently game, against Tottenham, when Heurelho Gomes I did Russia for four years. We came just one goal short
from people in international football: ‘Gosh, a shame be so strong. there weren’t. Then there’s another factor: the status (Tottenham’s keeper) pulled everything out. of qualifying for the World Cup. Then came Turkey,
that we didn’t see much from Holland.’ Freshness But now football is so internationalised, teams play of players. At a certain point players get a status – which isn’t top, because they have declined the last few
is our trademark. For the first time I experienced the each other so often, that it’s not any longer a case sometimes rightly, sometimes forced – that creates a + Would the most satisfying point of your years. But the people who run it here made a serious

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new power bloc in global football? + So it’s the quality of youth training that have to go at the expense of creativity or technique,
No, I don’t see them as an important new power bloc. makes Europe supreme – the fact that in as is sometimes said. That’s not necessarily so at all.
Clearly they do keep adopting the methods, including the World Cup final seven players raised in
the training methods of the European countries, but Barcelona’s La Masia play against seven + Michael Essien must typify that?.
I don’t see them as a power bloc that in the next few raised in Ajax Amsterdam’s academy? Essien is a great example of that. Jon Obi Mikel is
years can force out Europe or in part South America. Yes, I think so. But there is a lot of talent and will in still gaining experience, but he’s also a fine athlete.
I can’t see that happening easily. the Asian players. You’d think that more would be I have to say that Lampard himself is also impressive
playing in Europe. Because the scouts of the big in terms of athletic potential.
+ Because they lack individual player quality? clubs are in Asia too. Yet there aren’t many Asian
They probably do have that individual quality. I just players in the big clubs. There must be something + Is Turkey your last job as a coach?
think they have a slightly different organisational that stops that happening. Yes, I think it must be. Mind you, I once said when
structure. They have their clubs, which are based I came back from coaching in Spain, ‘Well, I’ll do this
on companies. And the clubs don’t really have a + What type of players do you prefer? for a bit longer, and then I’ll go and do something
youth system going from six years old to 18. What I do like is athletic players. When I see some of else.’ That was 15 years ago. But given my age (64)
Certainly not all clubs have such a structured the teams at the World Cup, and I see some of the I won’t be making great strange leaps anymore.
organisation, leaving aside the issue of whether Ivory Coast’s players for instance, well, they’re athletic It all remains fascinating. For a bit longer, haha!
Hiddink and Harry
Kewell are all smiles the content of it is good. players. I really enjoy seeing that. And it doesn’t at all No, for a long time.
during the 2006 World
Cup in Germany

impression. I hadn’t expected that. Their organisation is

more professional than their recent results. And I didn’t
actually have many offers to do big countries. This is a
big football country internally, but it’s not a big football
country internationally. Look at the FIFA rankings, that
says something. I think they’re now ranked 28th.
Here there’s a very pleasant culture where players

treat each other nicely, and where I think more could
be demanded in training. Then the level of matches
would rise. When we toured the US in May, I’d hear

from my assistant, ‘We trained hard today.’ I lead
training sessions without a watch. In America the
players wanted to give me a watch as a present, when

they realised I was training more than two hours. I think
here they train more just for maintenance. I notice it

Aussie Guus
in the squad: they pamper and spoil each other. In
a game in training, when someone gets a knock, the
player will go down, and three or four medical people
will run up to him from all sides with bags even though
you can see, ‘There’s no broken ankle here, nothing.’ In his hotel suite in Sandton, Johannesburg,
The players like to stay down. It gives the others two the day before the World Cup final, Frank Lowy
minutes break. These are little things, but if you can explained why he hired Guus Hiddink to coach
weed them out you’ll keep reaching a higher level. the Socceroos. “It didn’t happen by design,”
Lowy told us. “It was one of those quirks of fate.”
+ In your whole career as a national team Lowy had done a lot of business in the
manager, what you always seem to be doing Netherlands with his company, Westfield.
is teaching western European football to “One of our bankers was at ABN-Amro
countries that don’t know it. (the Dutch bank).
Because western Europe is the standard. I did that in “When I took the job (with the Australian
Korea too. At one point in Korea they said (they’re too federation) I rang him up and said, ‘Find me a
polite to demand it!), ‘We should see if we can’t get good Dutch coach,’ and he did.” recalls Lowy.
into the last 16 (at the 2002 World Cup).’ Well, if that’s “I have a very high regard for Dutch football.
the demand then you have to work at the standard of It represents a system which suits
those 16 countries. Then we have to train as hard as Australia well. There are a lot of similarities
they do, bring in the same type of players, create the between Dutch and Australian people,
conditions to practise, etcetera. besides being direct. In football they are
both aggressive.
+ The new countries – Korea, Japan, the US: “Some years ago Australian football
there seems a trend in which they’re learning to was kick-and-rush, English style.
play western European football very efficiently. That has disappeared now.”
Australia was a part of that trend in 2006. Do
you see these new countries as an important

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