Last week, Football Federation Australia announced Ante Milicic as the temporary caretaker of the Matildas through the 2019 World Cup. Milicic’s appointment comes almost exactly a month after former coach Alen Stajcic was sacked based on results of two anonymous surveys citing a toxic culture and concerns about player welfare.
Since then, very little new information has emerged on the specifics of those surveys. Of concern: not even the players themselves seem to know, with the majority of Matildas regulars taking to social media to express their dismay over his firing.
The lack of detail makes it hard to judge what, exactly, Milicic is supposed to fix. Under Stajcic, the Matildas made it to the quarterfinals in back-to-back international tournaments and rose to their highest FIFA ranking ever, claiming their first-ever victory over the United States along the way. In doing so, many had pegged the team to go deep in this upcoming World Cup, with a few (myself included) even picking Australia as a dark horse to win the entire thing.
Teams tend to go one of two ways in the early days of new managers, and with the World Cup just four months away, it will still be early days by the time Milicic’s interim period is up. One, they surge to a string of temporary success, buoyed by the fact that they’ve departed an unhappy relationship (see the 2017 Houston Dash in the first two months after Randy Waldrum departed). Two, they fall apart, struggling to adapt to new systems and coaching styles (see the 2018 Sky Blue team).
Given the players’ responses to the dismissal of Stajcic, it’s hard not to expect them to fall into the latter category.
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