Hiddink fondly recalls that initial encounter with his new Socceroos team, in 2005 in the Netherlands where he was managing PSV Eindhoven.
The players’ tardiness and sartorial choices had the Dutch coaching legend wondering what he was getting himself into.
“They came in the afternoon, dinner was for 6pm,” said Hiddink, who is in Australia to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the Socceroos’ historic play-off win against Uruguay.
“One came in and started eating at quarter to six, one came at 10 past six, one at 6.30.
“They were dressed with a cap, shorts and flip flops. I said, `What bunch of gypsies is this?’
“So we tried to change that in the second day.”
The revelations continued in the first training session, when Hiddink found Tony Popovic and Vince Grella aggressively punching and kicking each other in the corner of the pitch.
Assistant coach Graham Arnold had to calm his furious superior down, advising the Dutch legend to simply let the pair get it out of their systems.
“I controlled myself, and after one or two minutes they said `Boss, we settled it ourselves’,” Hiddink remembered.
“That was the Australian mind and Australian commitment – hitting each other.
“But there was never a second agenda, and that’s what I liked very much.”
Ten years on and reunited with his former team in Sydney, Hiddink praised the directness of that historic Socceroos squad.
In particular, he credited the group’s ability to shut out rowdy crowds and other distractions during a match as one of the reasons behind their success against Uruguay on November 16, 2005.
Hiddink singled out John Aloisi’s famous winning penalty in front of 80,000 at Sydney’s Telstra Stadium as an example of the way his playing group was able to stay inside the game during the most intense moments.
“You can practise a thousand times, but you cannot in training replace what is going on in the heat of the game – that’s very difficult,” Hiddink said.
“They have to walk very slowly from the circle to the goal, they can practise that but the stadium is empty and you don’t feel any sensations or emotions comparable to the real game.
“John was a beautiful example for that – he excluded all the external influences and went back to what he was good at.
“The control of external influences was high in this group.”
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