AAP Soccer

Bert falls for Socceroos in short affair

By AAP Newswire

Like many short-term affairs, Bert van Marwijk's began with excitement but uncertainty.

Would they fall for him? How willing would they be? How far could he take it?

Van Marwijk now knows some of the answers of his brief tenure as Socceroos coach.

His players love him. And the feeling is mutual, despite the looming break-up.

The Dutchman is giving precious little way in public ahead of Australia's defining World Cup fixture against Denmark on Thursday.

But he admits to growing increasingly fond of his Socceroos players.

"Yeah, that's true," van Marwijk said.

"Because when you work every day, you're getting closer."

"The team has improved much.

"From the first day in, when I compare it to now ... that is a big difference."

Van Marwijk was appointed as Australia's coach in January, with the affair to end after the World Cup in Russia.

Lose against Denmark in Samara, and it will be officially over after the Socceroos play Peru next Tuesday - they'll exit at the group stage.

Win, or even draw, against the Danes, and the Australians and van Marwijk remain a chance of extending their dates into the tournament's knockout phase.

When the Dutchman first came in, the Socceroos were a team that qualified for soccer's showpiece at the very last opportunity.

Now, van Marwijk's team are earning plaudits for their gallantry in a 2-1 loss to world superpower France in their World Cup opener.

"We all were very disappointed about the result," van Marwijk said,

"But I think everybody, the whole world, thought we would lose three, four, five, six (to) zero.

"And then suddenly everybody saw a completely different Australia.

"That makes us proud ... especially for me (but) the players are most important, not so myself."

Was he surprised at how readily Socceroos players took the plunge with him?

"The willingness - they do everything you tell them, maybe a little bit too much," he said.

Van Marwijk said players were so tuned into following his instructions precisely, they sometimes forgot to improvise.

"You also have to take your own decisions and initiative," he said.

"We try to find a balance.

"They are more open. I see it all day that they are behaving different as the first few days.

"It's also the balance.

"You (players) have to to listen to what I tell them.

"And on the other side, when something changes, you have to take your own decisions ... only listening, that is not good."