SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 29: Graham Arnold head coach of Sydney during the round of 16 FFA Cup match between the Bankstown Berries and Sydney FC at Sydney United Sports Centre on August 29, 2017 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

Ange Postecoglou’s shock resignation after four years in the job last week set the wheels in motion for Football Federation Australia to seek out a new national coach who will take the team to the World Cup.

It wasn’t meant to end like this.

Postecoglou was meant to take the Socceroos to Russia and in many ways, he was the perfect man for the job; an Australian who would be in it for the long haul, rebuilding the national team while chasing silverware.

He has fulfilled all three criteria exceptionally well, despite leaving his post before Russia.

Unlike his predecessors, Postecoglou has picked based on form, rather than reputation, has not rubbished the local league, brought success and a new way of thinking.

Amidst the heavy criticism towards the end of the most recent qualifying campaign, it’s easy to forget that Australia were extremely competitive against extremely good sides at the 2017 Confederations Cup playing his three-at-the-back formation.

While his methods and some of his tactical decisions towards the end of his tenure were highly questionable, Postecoglou has forged a reputation as one of the national team’s greatest coaches.

It will not be easy replacing him, but with the World Cup just over seven months away, the FFA knows it cannot delay the decision any longer than absolutely necessary.

In choosing the next coach, the FFA must ask itself two key questions:

Should the coach be a stop-gap replacement for the Russian World Cup and Asian Cup or should the next coach take the Socceroos through the entire World Cup cycle to Qatar 2022?

And…

Should the coach be Australian or foreign?

Stop-gap or long-term?

A stop-gap replacement will take Australia to the 2018 World Cup and potentially the 2019 Asian Cup.

In 2013, the FFA gave Holger Osieck his marching orders following consecutive 6-0 defeats and handed the reigns to Postecoglou with every intention of him taking the Socceroos to the 2018 World Cup.

Four years and one Asian Cup success later, Postecoglou has bowed out before the 2018 tournament, putting the Socceroos into the same position they was in one World Cup cycle ago.

The case for a long-term replacement stems from the fact that the Socceroos are still in a period of rebuilding.

A stop-gap replacement – while it would give us the best chance for success in Russia –would interrupt the development of the players in the national team.

Local or foreign?

The case for local or foreign coach is less clear cut. The momentum generated by hiring local coaches is valuable in a country where football is not the number one sport.

A local coach who values the place of the A-League within the national setup would help grow the game in Australia exponentially.

But it should also be noted that there is no point hiring a local coach if there is no coach ready to make the step up.

The contenders

Graham Arnold

Arnold is the standout coach in the domestic scene at the moment. He has led his Sydney FC side to an A-League championship, premiership and most recently won the FFA Cup.

Arnold is no stranger to the national setup, having been appointed a Socceroos assistant in 2000 before being handed the head coach reigns in December 2006, leading the Socceroos through the disastrous 2007 Asian Cup campaign.

He has become a vastly more rounded coach since that time and his reputation is clear. The only major stumbling block is that Arnold is contracted to Sydney FC.

Pros:

  • Local coach
  • Record of club success

Cons:

  • Contracted to Sydney FC
  • Has already coached the national team with limited success

Ante Milicic

Milicic has been a Socceroos assistant coach since 2014. He has previous international experience as a Socceroo, earning six caps between 2002 and 2005, but his only senior managerial experience to date has been with Sydney United, an NPL side.

Pros:

  • Local
  • Knowledge of Asian football
  • Already part of the national setup

Cons:

  • No top-level senior managerial experience

Gianni De Biasi

Reportedly the front-runner for the vacant position, De Biasi is unattached after being sacked by Deportivo Alavés. De Biasi coached Albania to their first major international tournament, Euro 2016, where they were eliminated in the group stage, but not after almost earning a draw against powerhouse France.

Pros:

  • Unattached
  • Previous international experience with Albania

Cons:

  • Foreigner
  • No experience in Asian football

Tony Popovic

Popovic sensationally quit the Wanderers on the eve of the A-League season but after only a few months in Turkey, his position is reportedly on a knife’s edge as boardroom battles rage on. Popovic has a wealth of experience particularly in Asia, having led the Wanderers to the Asian Champions League title.

Pros:

  • Local
  • Knowledge of Asian football
  • Record of club success
  • Potentially unattached

Cons:

  • Contracted to Karabükspor

The outsiders

Kevin Muscat

Muscat has led Melbourne Victory since Postecoglou left to take the Socceroos post in 2013. He was an assistant under Postecoglou and has had several successful seasons since then, however, his side’s dismal start to the new A-League season will not help his cause.

Pros:

  • Local
  • Recent club success
  • International experience as a player

Cons:

  • Contracted to Melbourne Victory

Marcelo Bielsa

Reports suggest the Argentine nicknamed “El Loco” (The Crazy) has been approached by the FFA to take on the vacant Socceroos role. He prefers a style similar to how the Socceroos played towards the end of Postecoglou’s tenure, so could provide a smoother transition. Bielsa is current head coach of French-side Lille but his time at the club is set to end imminently.

Pros:

  • Playing style similar to Socceroos
  • Potentially unattached
  • Tactical genius

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Foreigner
  • No previous experience in Asian football
  • Tactical madman

Alen Stajcic

The current coach of the Matildas, Stajcic is building a reputation as one of the country’s premier coaches. Stajcic would be a left-field replacement, but has proven his wares in charge of a women’s side breaking records left, right and centre.

Pros:

  • Local
  • Knowledge of Asian football

Cons:

  • Would cause a major reshuffle of the Matilda’s coaching staff
  • No previous coaching experience of male sides

The dream

Guus Hiddink

The legendary coach who took Australia back to the World Cup, Hiddink is the coach who will live warmly in the memory of Australian football fans. And let’s face it, who wouldn’t want to see a return of the Hiddink-Cahill combination?

Pros:

  • Legendary reputation
  • Tactical genius
  • Fan favourite

Cons:

  • Has not coached since mid-2016
  • Would be strictly stop-gap
  • Expensive
  • Foreigner

Carlo Ancelotti

Ancelotti is without a team after he was sacked by Bayern Munich in September. A coach of his stature would not come cheap, but you get what you pay for.

Pros:

  • Legendary reputation in Europe
  • Proven record in competitions
  • Tactical genius

Cons:

  • Limited knowledge of Asian football
  • Foreigner
  • Expensive

Who do you think should be the next Socceroos coach? Leave a comment below.