We have to win it
SBS football commentator and former Socceroo captain Craig Foster was back in his home town of Lismore this week visiting family, and in typical fashion didn't mince words in his assessment of the big issues on the horizon for the world game in Australia and on the Northern Rivers. The upcoming Asian Cup is the obvious short-term focus, with Foster upbeat in his assessment of the Socceroos' chances. "I believe we should win it and if we don't, it'll be our own fault and we'll want to know why we didn't," Foster said. "After our fantastic performance at the World Cup we're arguably the best side in Asia and at a minimum we must make the final to live up to expectations. "Our draw and schedule are both favourable and we have only two players unavailable in Craig Moore and Scott Chipperfield, while our main threats in Japan, the defending champions who we beat at the World Cup, Korea and Iran, all have key players unavailable. "On paper we have the best side with the most European experience, boasting quality players such as Lucas Neil, Mark Viduka and Harry Kewell, so we deserve to bear the weight of favouritism. "Admittedly the friendly against Singapore was our worst effort in years, but it came after seven straight days of tough physical training similar to our World Cup preparation, so we can't read too much into it." With the third season of the highly successful A-League also just around the corner, Foster had both praise and criticism for the way the fledgling league is growing. "It's certainly looking positive and the trend should continue as the quality of coaches and players improves, but the issue of recruitment of players still needs to be looked at," Foster said. "In some cases we've seen good, young Australian talent shut out in the rush to sign overseas players, who don't always live up to expectations. "We might need to look at a more centralised system of recruitment such as they use in the United States to identify and promote talent through the FFA or perhaps even the A-League itself." But for Foster, the biggest issue for the game's future, nationally and locally, is the simple question: What style of football do we want to play? "Recently in Spain the coach of Real Madrid was sacked, despite winning the league, for pursuing a defensive, win-at-all-costs mentality that proved unappealing to their own fans," Foster said. "For me, it's not enough to win; you need to play an attractive, entertaining game with the focus on short passing, teamwork and attack, as they do in South America. "To achieve this you need good coaching to develop quality players and this all relates back to youth development. "This is a key issue here on the Northern Rivers and there's plenty of science showing regions like this are perfect breeding grounds for producing quality athletes, which is actually known in research circles as, the 'Wagga Effect'. "If we want to build on the momentum that's growing in the game and release our full potential, we need to finally break our links with the past and be more progressive in our approach to coaching and development, locally and nationally."