Mark Viduka and Harry Kewell praised ex-Australia boss Guss Hiddink on Goals on Sunday
Last Updated: February 22, 2013 11:30am
Mark Viduka and Harry Kewell praised former Australia coach Guus Hiddink for masterminding the Socceroos' 2006 World Cup adventure, on Goals on Sunday.
The Dutch boss guided Australia through their Oceania qualifying rounds to set up a play-off with Uruguay, who had finished fifth in the South America qualifying table. After losing 1-0 in the first leg away from home, Australia levelled the tie on aggregate in Sydney and then won the decisive penalty shoot-out to book their place at the World Cup for only the second time in their history, and for the first time in 32 years.
"In the qualifications for 2006, when Hiddink took over, there was a real buzz about the team. We'd learnt from the last two campaigns and we weren't going to make those mistakes again."
In Germany, Australia produced an outstanding performance to beat Japan and, after losing to Brazil, drew with Croatia to reach the knockout phase. In the round of 16 their tournament came to an end, losing to Italy - but it was a campaign both Viduka and Kewell remember fondly.
"It was an incredible experience," said former Leeds and Liverpool winger Kewell.
"We had two cracks at it beforehand and only through silly mistakes we didn't qualify. But in the qualifications for 2006, when Hiddink took over, there was a real buzz about the team. We'd learnt from the last two campaigns and we weren't going to make those mistakes again.
"We had a good team - a really good team - with the majority playing in the Premier League and with Hiddink's structure and the way he trained us, we were ready for the World Cup."
Viduka also praised his former boss and says Hiddink helped alleviate an inferiority complex Australia's players felt when matched against more successful football nations.
"Hiddink has got this presence about him which makes people automatically want to play for him," he said.
"Hiddink sets the tone from the start - from training to games. He's got this calmness about him as well.
"When you come from Australia, and you have come through the Australian system, you always feel a little bit inferior to European or South American sides. We always had a hard run - we had to play the fifth placed South American team to reach the World Cup and it was always very difficult.
"We'd have two big games every four years (the World Cup play-offs), whereas the South Americans come from a big qualification series where they play loads of big games against the best in the world.
"For us to get up for those two big games and go through was very difficult - that's why in the two times before that we'd struggled. But when Hiddink came in he set the tone.
"He improved us defensively and got us to the point where we all knew our jobs 100%, so even with our eyes closed we knew exactly what to do. We knew how to close down teams when we didn't have the ball, how we were going to go forward...He was excellent."