Advocaat apologises to Australia

Dutchman Dick Advocaat has apologised for reneging on a coaching contract and leaving Australia without a national coach two months out from qualifiers for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Advocaat has extended his contract with Russia's new champions Zenit St Petersburg in an improved four-million-dollar a year contract after he was set to take over Australia's national side.

His late switch has left Australia in a bind ahead of their FIFA World Cup qualifying group including China, Iraq and Qatar, kicking off in February.

Advocaat, seen as a replacement for compatriot Guus Hiddink who guided the Socceroos to the 2006 FIFA World Cup finals in Germany, said he regretted the way the saga unfolded and the situation he has left Football Federation Australia in.

"I feel very sorry for them," Advocaat told the Daily Telegraph in St Petersburg. "We put them in a difficult situation and Australia will try to find a solution and that's all I can say about that."

Advocaat, who has coached the Netherlands and Korea Republic at World Cup finals, said his decision was not made easily, but in the end the money was too much to pass up.

"Emotionally, I was already in Australia," he told the newspaper. "First of all it took me a lot, emotionally, because the people who I spoke to, (FFA chairman) Mr Frank Lowy and (FFA chief executive) Mr Ben Buckley, I felt personally I had a good relationship with.

"So I definitely feel so sorry, but at the same time you have to take a decision in life that is quite difficult to do. I couldn't refuse this offer. It was quite a lot of money, to be honest. It was not double, it was more. Much more."

Advocaat denied he has left Australia in the lurch, saying the Socceroos are an attractive option for any coach and there was more than enough time to attract a topline coach.

"There's still two months," he said. "Everybody likes to be the coach of Australia. I was proud of that as well, despite the money. But like I said, the money was for me, at that time, not important."

FFA officials are seething over Advocaat's rebuff and reports here Friday said the FFA wants the world governing body FIFA to suspend Advocaat for reneging on his Australian contract.

Buckley appeared before reporters Thursday with Advocaat's Socceroos contract and said: "Obviously we're very disappointed with the decision that's been made by Dick Advocaat; we feel very let down about it.

"We put a lot of hard work and effort into securing his services, and to be told on the eve of the World Cup campaign that he was not going to fulfil his contract is very disappointing.

"I can say the FFA did everything according to the book -- we have a contract, it's a signed contract, so, again, we're very disappointed he chose not to honour it.

"We've now prepared our case, we intend to go to FIFA, and I think this goes beyond the issue of just compensation."

As the FFA intensifies its search for a coach Buckley said he has contacted Hiddink to see if he will return as Australian national coach.

"We've made contact with his agent to see if the recent press reports are a tactical exercise, or whether there is some genuine interest there," he said.

"We've put a lot of energy and attention into finding a suitable replacement. In the last seven days, we've had some contact with well-known coaches.

"We have some preferred candidates, and those discussions are pretty positive, but I won't talk specifically."