Australia captain Lucas Neill hit back at critics calling for him to retire in the wake of the Socceroos' 6-0 drubbing by France, saying he felt "responsible" to help the team restore confidence ahead of the World Cup.
Australia scraped through Asia's final round of qualifying to book
their ticket to next year's finals in Brazil, but have come crashing
back to earth with Friday's massacre at Parc de Princes, which followed a
6-0 spanking away to Brazil.
Football Federation Australia wasted little time in sacking coach
Holger Osieck after the France defeat, and pundits have called on the
German's eventual replacement to clean out the team's ageing ranks,
which include 35-year-old defender Neill.
Former Australia and Premier League goalkeeper Mark Bosnich called
on Japan-based Neill to fall on his sword for the better of the team,
but the former Blackburn stalwart was having none of it.
"I'm not going to get drawn into tit for tat. Like I said, football
is a game of opinions," Neill told reporters in London ahead of a
friendly against Canada on Tuesday.
"(Bosnich) is entitled to his. I expect better from people who have
played the game and certainly from people who call themselves my friend.
"I'm happy to stand out there and shoulder criticism on behalf of
the team. But people who have played the game, and especially those who
have voiced their opinion they know that football is won and lost by a
team, not by one person.
"And I am a captain of a team that at the moment has had two very
difficult results, very poor performances by our standards, and I will
collectively shoulder some of that responsibility.
"I have responsibility as captain to get the wheels back on the
track. We have nine months before a major tournament and I feel partly
responsible for making sure that this team goes into that tournament in
the best possible shape they can ... and hopefully with a lot of
Despite guiding Australia into a third consecutive World Cup, Osieck
endured a strained relationship with Australian media, who also
struggled to warm to his Dutch predecessor Pim Verbeek, who put the
Socceroos into the 2010 finals in South Africa.
The FFA have put out feelers to Dutchman Guus Hiddink, who took
Australia to the last 16 at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, but local
media have called for a local coach to take the reins, pushing the
claims of Melbourne Victory coach Ange Postecoglou and Graham Arnold,
who managed the Socceroos from 2006-07.
Neill said he simply wanted "the best" for the job, but said he
hoped Australian coaches would emulate local players by seeking to
improve their careers in Europe.
"I'd love to see more Australian managers have ambition to go and be the best coaches in the world," Neill said.
"Footballers from Australia in the last 20 years have gone over and
challenged themselves to be the best players they can be on behalf of
"We need coaches now to have that ambition to yes, coach in
Australia, but then go and see if they can go and crack the big-time in
Europe, just like the players did."