Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Australia captain Neill hits back at retirement calls

Australia's national soccer team captain Lucas Neill answers a question during a news conference in central Sydney June 17, 2013. REUTERS/Daniel Munoz 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 confidence."
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 their country.
"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."

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