Affectionately known as “Uncle Joe,” Joe Vlasits was one of Australian football’s most respected and well liked national team coaches. Born in Hungary in 1921, he had a playing career with First Division side NSC of Budapest that was shortened by injury which led him to taking up coaching.
Vlasits was employed by the Hungarian national body as a travelling coach, teaching football skills to a number of teams around Hungary, with a focus on educating junior sides.
He is seen by many as one of Australian coaching’s best coaches and a pioneer in youth development. Joe is credited with being the first coach in the modern era to try to ‘Australianise’ the national team. He promoted and developed young Australian born players and appointed a young Johnny Warren as Socceroo captain. Joe was vital in bringing the need of specialised coaches to the forefront of the thinking of coaches, players and administrators in the country. He also, along with Denes Adrigan and Bill Vrolyks, helped set up the Australian Coaching Federation.
After his immigration to Australia in 1949, he again took up coaching in his new homeland. Joe was the coach of the famous Canterbury Kids, a team which won the 1958 and 1960 titles with such players as Johnny Warren and John Watkiss. He also won the NSW title with Prague and St George Budapest.
In 1967 he was named coach of the Australian national team and throughout 1969 led them through the marathon 1970 World Cup qualifying campaign. He is credited with rejuvenating the Socceroos side and providing some of the country’s best young players with a start in the national setup. During his time as coach, Joe had an exceptional win loss ratio during his time, and after 23 matches in charge it sat at 57%.
Rale Rasic has a unique position in Australian football having been the first coach to take Australia to the finals of the World Cup in West Germany 1974. Rasic coached Australia in 58 international matches from 1970 to 1974.
Rasic immigrated to Australia in 1962, but returned to Yugoslavia after 18 months to serve in the army. His obligations met, Rasic returned to Australia, and played football in the Victorian league. He was appointed national coach in 1970 at just 26 years of age, where he masterminded Australia’s qualification and participation at the 1974 FIFA World Cup. He was therefore the first coach to take Australia to the World Cup finals.
In 1967 he coached Footscray to the Victorian championship and from 1968 to 1970 he was the Victorian senior state coach. In 1970 he coached the Victorian youth team to win the national championships and in 1971 coached St. George to win the NSW grand final and Tokyo International Tournament. He coached Marconi to the Australian championships in 1972 and to the NSW grand final in 1973. In 1979 he coached Adelaide to win the NSL Cup final. From 1986 to 1988 his teams won the national championships and the NSL Cup final.
In 1974 Rasic was listed among the top 35 coaches in the world by German Soccer expert Fritz Hack, and in 1977 and 1987 he was voted the national league coach of the year. He was a television presenter on SBS, during the Australian network’s 2006 FIFA World Cup coverage. In 2004 Rasic was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for his service to soccer as a player, coach and administrator.
Frank “Mad Dog” Arok began his coaching career at the age of 24 with his appointment to Novi Sad, becoming Yugoslavia’s youngest ever first division coach. Born in Yugoslavia in 1932, he came to Australia in 1969 to coach Sydney club St George. It was the first of three visits during which his modern methods and competitiveness led to his 1983 appointment as Australian coach against England.
He describes coaching Australia, “as the best time of my life.” Arok coached Australia in 90 matches, 48 of them full internationals from 1983-1989. His coaching highlights include the 4-1 Gold Cup win over Argentina in 1988 and reaching the Seoul Olympic Games quarter finals. From 1984 to 1990, Arok led the Socceroos to great success and established Australia on the world stage.
Eddie Thomson was born in Scotland in 1947. He coached Sydney City for seven years, going on to win nearly every major title. In addition to coaching, Thomson enjoyed success as an administrator, including the positions of Australian staff coach, national director of coaching, FIFA coach and Scottish FA Badge holder.
From 1990 to 1996 Thomson was Socceroo coach, taking the team to two World Cup campaigns and two Olympic Games. In his time, Thompson capped two youngsters who would go on to be vital players for the Socceroos. In 1996, he debuted a 17 year old Harry Kewel, and an 18 year old Lucas Neil. Thompson saw these two, who were both playing in England, as rising stars and capped them before the English as they did to previous Australian players.
Terry Venables was born on 6th January 1943 in London. A former Barcelona, Tottenham and England coach, he was the first big name Socceroo coach.
He was the national team coach of England from 1994 to 1996 leading the team to the semi-finals of the 1996 European Championships. He also coached several club sides including Crystal Palace, Queens Park Rangers, Tottenham Hotspur and Leeds United in England, and Barcelona in Spain.
Terry’s experience and success as a football coach earned him the role as national coach of Australia from 1996-1998. The Socceroos won their first 12 games under Terry as coach. In the 1997 Confederations Cup, Venables ledAustralia to the final before defeat to Brazil which consisted of Ronaldo and Romario. His side swept through the Oceania World Cup qualifiers, but were unlucky not to go all the way due to be beaten in a play-off by Iran on away goals and questionable umpire decisions.
Australian football legend Frank Farina was born in Darwin on September 8th, 1964. Farina is the only Australian born coach of the Socceroos. He began his playing career in 1981 aged just 16 as a striker with Mareeba in Cairns. He was invited to the Australian Institute of Sport, later joining Canberra and then Sydney City and Marconi after winning selection in the 1983 national Under 19 team for the World Youth titles. In 1988, Farina switched to Club Brugge in Belgium to become the leading goal scorer in a successful European season. Farina made his international debut for Australia as a substitute against China in Beijing in 1984 and went on to make 86 appearances for Australia, including 37 A internationals and a total of 20 goals. He played in the 1988 Seoul Olympics and was signed by Bari in the Italian Serie A.
Farina returned to Australia in 1995 after three seasons in France. Farina took the Brisbane Strikers to the National League championship and ended an outstanding playing career with his appointment as the Australian national coach in 1999.
His first full year as a coach was a successful one with a 3-0 win over Hungry in Budapset, and then he led the team to win the Oceania Nations Cup in 2000. The following year, his success continued when the Socceroos finishing third at the Confederations Cup with a half strength side, and in 2001 he coached the Socceroos to a home soil win against a powerful Uruguay.
Gus Hiddink ended his playing days and began his coaching career at De Graafschap in 1982. He rose to prominence in 1987/88 when, in his first full season in charge, he guided PSV Eindhoven to the Eredivisie Dutch Cup and European Champion Clubs’ Cup.
Hiddink remained coach for two more years before moving abroad to coach Fenerbahce and then Valencia, where he remained until taking the Dutch national team job in 1995.
He then joined new European champions Real Madrid after that tournament but departed soon afterwards to be appointment as Korea Republic coach, which reaffirmed his reputation as he unexpectedly led the 2002 World Cup co-hosts to the semi-finals.
Gus Hiddink returned for a second spell at PSV, where he won three more Eredivisie titles over the next four years, taking his total at the club to a record six.
Hiddink was appointed Australian coach in 2005 with a tough approach which paid off, leading Australia through to the last 16 of the 2006 World Cup. Hiddink was an extremely popular figure in Australia and was referred to affectionately as “Aussie Guus”. More seriously, his reputation was enhanced by his transformation of the national side, with many punditsfocusing on the immense improvement to Australia’s defense. Hiddink’s success with the Socceroos during the 2006 campaign changed the landscape of football in Australia and kick started the style of play they use now. By several Socceroos players, he has been referred to as the number one Socceroos coach they have ever played under.
Pim Verbeek was born March 12th, 1956 in Holland. Between 2006-2008, Pim was the South Korean national coach. He led South Korea to a third-place finish at the 2007 AFC Asian Cup, guaranteeing the nation on an automatic berth in the 2011 AFC Asian Cup tournament.
On 6th December 2007, it was announced that Verbeek had secured the position as Australian coach. In his first World Cup qualifier game as head coach, Verbeek led Australia to a 3-0 win against Qatar at home.
Under Verbeek, the Socceroos were the second country (apart from the host nation) to qualify for World Cup 2010 after a 0-0 draw against Qatar in June 2009, less than an hour after Japan had qualified. Under Pim Verbeek, Australia qualified to the World Cup without losing a game.
Australia was defeated by Germany 4-0 in its first 2010 World Cup match, but came up to beat Serbia and drew against Serbia. Unfortunately due to goal difference, Australian did not advance to the next round.