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The hole that Cahill leaves in Australian football


Five issues Arnold's Australia face

 By Mike Wise

Guus Hiddink, Graham Arnold top the list of Ange Postecoglou successors

Tim Cahill talks the importance of Mile Jedinak to Australia despite his countless injuries.

With Ange Postecoglou sensationally quitting his job as head coach of Australia on Wednesday, a raft of candidates from both home and abroad will no doubt be lining up to take over the Socceroos helm.

The chance to manage reigning Asian champions Australia at the 2018 World Cup will be a lure too big to resist for many. But who is in the box seat to take over the Socceroos reins?

Here are five candidates that immediately stand out:

1. The fan favourite

He's available, he's considered a legend Down Under, and if Football Federation Australia are looking for a short-term appointment to ensure that the Socceroos are competitive at the World Cup, Guus Hiddink will surely be sounded out for the job.

The Dutch tactician is responsible for Australia's greatest-ever World Cup campaign -- losing narrowly to eventual champions Italy in the round of 16 at Germany 2006 -- and is famously open to short-term contracts, for the right price.

Hiddink will surely be the first man FFA chief executive David Gallop will call. But can the 71-year-old be the Socceroos' saviour again?

2. The headline stealer

If the FFA is looking to make waves across the footballing world, and create a bit of desperately needed goodwill in a time of uncertainty, the appointment of Carlo Ancelotti would certainly be the tonic.

The idea isn't as unfathomable as first sounds -- the serial Champions League winner is well-known to "prefer the cup" competitions and is without a job following his sacking at Bayern Munich in September.

Like Hiddink, the Italian would be a short-term fix. Also like Hiddink, it would be an expensive band-aid over the problems that currently plague the Australian national team.

3. The home-grown favourite

Tony Popovic made his move a few months too early, which rules him out of the running, leaving Graham Arnold and Kevin Muscat as the two A-League bosses that the FFA could turn to to succeed Postecoglou.

Given that the Sydney FC manager is coming off one of the greatest seasons in A-League history, and won even more silverware this week, one would think that Hiddink's one-time assistant manager would shade his Melbourne Victory counterpart.

But Arnold has had the job before -- overseeing Australia's disappointing 2007 Asian Cup campaign -- so it remains to be seen whether the FFA believes he has matured enough as a coach in past decade.

Convincing Arnold to leave the Sky Blues, and the club to let him go, could also be a significant obstacle.

Graham Arnold & Guus Hiddink
Guus Hiddink's former assistant Graham Arnold, left, has developed into the A-League's premier manager.

4. Promoting from within

Keeping things as stable as possible within the Socceroos setup, not to mention keeping costs down, would certainly appeal to the FFA -- meaning that someone already employed by the FFA is in with a real shout of getting the head coach gig.

Highly regarded within the camp, Ante Milicic has been the brains behind Postecoglou's bluster, and there's no doubt his promotion to manager of Australia's under-23's team last week was made with one eye on the future.

There is, however, another candidate in the FFA mix that should also come under consideration -- Alen Stajcic. The 44-year-old has worked wonders for the Matildas, winning August's Tournament of Nations playing a brilliant brand of attacking football.

In an exclusive interview with ESPN FC in October, the former Sydney FC boss spoke of transforming Australia into genuine World Cup contenders -- a line straight from the Postecoglou handbook if ever there was one.

Will this week's games against China end up being Stajcic's audition for the Socceroos job? It's not as far-fetched as it sounds.

5. The dark horse

Say it quietly, but what if there was a veteran already in the Australian setup that could immediately take over Postecoglou's job and command respect within the playing group?

Someone that no other ex-Socceroo could hold a candle to in terms of playing record, success and legendary status?

Tim Cahill has, at times, carried Australia solely on his back through what will now be his fourth World Cup appearance.

He's played virtually every role for the Socceroos over his career, surely a role as player-coach is the next logical step for the 37-year-old?

Mike Wise is the associate editor for ESPN FC Australia and New Zealand. You can follow him on Twitter @wisey_9.


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