Interview by Ian Kerr
Pim Verbeek has been in Australia enjoying life and ignoring phone calls from Craig Foster. Well, enjoying life anyway. He is no longer flying all over Africa, collecting malaria injections and various other immunisations while coaching the Moroccan youth teams. He’s spending time with his family and recharging generally.
While in Australia, Pim has been part of FoxSports’ Asian Cup panel. Was being on the other side of the media divide a chance to say whatever he liked, freed from the shackles of the need to stay “on message”?
“I’ve never been afraid to say what I like. I try to be honest – honest towards my players, honest to the people around me. Honesty works – don’t beat about the bush, just say what you want to say.”
But what was it like working with Adam Peacock?
“I was very impressed with the preparation of Adam Peacock, Bozza and Johnny Aloisi before each game. Very professional.”
The Asian Cup is reaching its pointy end, starting with the quarter-finals tonight. Pim has coached Australia and South Korea, and coached a club side in Japan in the late 1990s.
Pim’s assessment of the finalists is blunt:
“Japan is the best team. They should go to the semi-finals.
“Same for the South Koreans. The moment they have to step up, they step up. They will do that in the quarter-finals.”
Pim nominated Iran and Australia as the other likely semi-finalists.
“I was impressed by Iran. I was already impressed by Iran when they played in the World Cup, particularly against Argentina. Their organisation, individual qualities of players. Carlos Queiroz is doing a great job. They are not outsiders any more. They are a candidate for the semi-finals.
“But the Soceroos’ match against China won’t be an easy game. China had the best preparation of all the teams. They have had good results in friendlies. The league finished in November. They’ve had enough time to prepare the team and they’ve had a coach who has been there since February.
“That’s the big issue with the Middle East teams – they just change coaches after the Gulf Cup and then they think that a new coach can prepare a team without seeing them for a tournament in two weeks’ time.”
Could the quarter finals throw up any surprises?
“Anything is possible. Bad luck, bad red card, unlucky moment for the goalkeeper, mistake from the referee. These things can happen and the coach can’t change them.
“In every tournament you have a surprise. The UAE did well. The UAE league is good, the national team is working, they were in the Olympics. They have a future.
“China is the dark horse. And no-one can underestimate a team like Iraq.”