The glory of Australia’s heroic World Cup efforts in Germany is still fresh in the minds of many sports fans. But the last few days have seen the first cracks emerge in what until now had seemed a totally unified campaign. We’ve also seen the first signs of the team starting to unravel.

The first indication that something was amiss came several days ago when goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer’s book criticised Guus Hiddink’s coaching and man-management skills during the campaign – a bizarre situation, given Hiddink’s undeniably pivotal role in all that the Socceroos achieved. It has come as no surprise that Schwarzer has found his views largely without support from his teammates in the days since.

Hiddink’s management then hit back, describing Schwarzer’s outburst as “a joke”.

Then Craig Moore, who would have captained the Socceroos in the friendly against Paraguay in Brisbane tomorrow night, was suspended for one match after missing training and a community commitment, having overslept after (according to him) taking a sleeping pill the night before following a big day at the races and a night out and to help counter the effects of jetlag.

Moore was furious at his suspension and flew out of the country almost immediately, deciding to miss next Wednesday’s Asian Cup qualifier against Bahrain in Sydney.

The whole episode lent an uneasy air to press conferences on Thursday promoting the Paraguay game, and goalkeeper Zeljko Kalac didn’t help matters (no huge surprise there) by bagging Football Federation Australia, saying they should have handled the matter better and treated Moore more leniently.

All of this has taken some attention away from the fact that the team is now beginning to disband. Loyal servants Stan Lazaridis, Tony Vidmar, Tony Popovic and Kalac have all announced that tomorrow night’s game will be their last for the Socceroos.

Stand-in coach Graham Arnold is orchestrating their appearances to give them every chance to say goodbye, and their fans the chance to express their appreciation. We can only hope their farewells go rather better than the rest of what has been a pretty unedifying week for the Socceroos camp.

Peter Fray

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