Australia: New coach to inherit potential
Whoever steps into the breach will take charge of a team with great character, who can score goals and are just four games away from qualification for Germany 2006. However, with those positive elements come a series of negatives, all too cruelly exposed in this year's edition of the FIFA Confederations Cup.
While Australia did not struggle to score goals, they certainly had problems stopping them, conceding four against both Germany and Argentina in their first two games. The tone was set in the first half of the opening game against the hosts. Twice Australia fell behind and twice they equalised. A Michael Ballack penalty on the hour left Farina's men with a mountain to climb and the size of that task increased when Lukas Podolski scored two minutes from time.
Of course, this spirited and well-organised side did not give up: John Aloisi's injury-time strike was living proof of that and took the Australians to within one goal of the three-times FIFA World Cup winners. But the damage had been done.
The same happened in their next game against Argentina in Nuremberg as the Albiceleste raced to a three-goal lead with 53 minutes on the clock. The only people in the stadium who believed that Australia could stage a comeback were the team but they gave the South Americans a real scare by scoring twice in nine minutes to leave them just one goal away from securing a famous result.
As they pressed for an equaliser, Luciano Figueroa completed his hat-trick in the 89th minute to end their hopes of qualifying for the last four and by this time a worrying statistic was becoming all too obvious. The two goals Tunisia then scored against them in Leipzig took the number of goals conceded by the team in Germany to ten.
"It is not good," said Farina after the game. "When you look at the ten goals we have conceded, there were basic errors and two were penalties. At international level if you make those mistakes you will be punished, that is what we have learned from this tournament. It is something we are going to have to work on."
The statistics make grim reading. Australia became only the third team in the history of the FIFA Confederations Cup to lose all of their group games. They also conceded the second highest amount of goals in the first stage; falling just one short of New Zealand's total of 11 in the 2003 tournament.
With that in mind and with growing speculation about Farina's future the Sydneysider relinquished his duties by mutual consent, stating: "Ever increasing speculation on my position is not something that I want to see affect the performance of the team and the potential for that happening has led to this announcement. We have the players and the backing to get us to the World Cup and no single element of our approach should be allowed to undermine that."
Presuming, of course, they overcome the Solomon Islands in their September play-off in the Oceania zone, the new manager and his team will have until November to work together before their all-important play-off for a place in the FIFA World Cup finals against the fifth-placed team from the South American qualifying section.
The Aussies will be boosted by the return of Harry Kewell, Marco Bresciano and a fully match-fit Mark Viduka for that two-legged encounter, but it is the back four that will give Farina's successor more cause for concern. However, with players such as Mark Schwarzer, Craig Moore, Tim Cahill and Aloisi forming an impressive spine to the team already, the chances are that Australia can defy the odds once again and qualify for their first FIFA World Cup since Germany 1974.