Bert van Marwijk will be one of the most experienced coaches at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ when he leads Australia into their fourth successive tournament and fifth overall. The 65-year-old famously led his native Netherlands all the way to the FIFA World Cup Final eight years ago, following a scintillating run through the knockout stage at South Africa 2010.
More recently, Van Marwijk helped Saudi Arabia end their 12-year World Cup drought, only to resign following qualification for Russia 2018. He then assumed the Australia role left vacant by Ange Postecoglou’s surprise exit last November, after Saudi Arabia had edged the Socceroos on goal difference for an automatic ticket to Russia 2018.
Van Marwijk, who will be Australia’s third Dutch coach in the past four World Cups, has so far had just ten days and two matches with his new side ahead of an upcoming training camp in Turkey.
Van Marwijk tells FIFA.com about his new side’s characteristics, the qualities of the France team that Australia will face, the value of experience for a World Cup coach and his memories of South Africa 2010.
FIFA.com: How much benefit does a coach take from previously experience at a World Cup?
Bert van Marwijk: I don’t think you can demonstrate it with words, but I think it has to do with your attitude. They [the players] have to feel that you have the experience, so I think it is the small things rather than anything particularly special.
What traits have you seen from the Australian team so far after your brief time together?
They are motivated with a good mentality. They are good listeners. My impression of the players was good from the first day. The ten days together [in March] was very good and useful for us, and I was satisfied with how we played in the first half against Colombia [0-0 draw].
What qualities would you like to bring out of the team in Russia?
I will not bring something out of the team. The challenge is to find a system which fits the players, and it is even better when it fits the coach too.
With Netherlands not qualifying for the World Cup, has there been much interest in Australia from your homeland in Australia?
I have already felt and seen it, and I think that will increase as we get closer to the World Cup, because I’m the only one that will be coaching at the World Cup. I think there will also be interest in Morocco because there are a lot of Dutch players playing for Morocco.
What are your thoughts on Australia’s group which also features France, Denmark and Peru?
I’m telling you nothing new when I say this is a very difficult group, maybe one of the best at the World Cup. Especially France, and we saw in part of their match against Colombia [in March] they have a very good team and have a big chance of winning the world championship. They have very fast and creative players, are physically strong, and they have one of the best players in the world at the moment in [Kylian] Mbappe. They have a lot of weapons, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a result against them.
I prefer not to talk about the other [two] teams because we are concentrating only one thing, and that is the first game [against France]. The goal is to survive the first round, and I think we have a chance, otherwise I wouldn’t do it [the coaching job].
Growing up was there a particular World Cup that made an impact on you?
I can remember 1966 in England. 1974 in Germany was of course very special when we came second. I was almost a part of that team, and in 1978 I was nominated but unfortunately I was injured.
What emotions come to mind when you think about your South Africa 2010 campaign and leading Netherlands to the World Cup Final?
It was a great experience, and one of the most beautiful moments in my career. Normally when you stay in a tournament, you are growing and that was the case with us.
We grew with every game, and you could really feel it. The coach of one of our opponents said afterwards ‘we had the feeling we couldn’t beat them’, and my players had the feeling that we couldn’t lose. We were really a team, and it is not always the best players that win all the best prizes, but the best team.