Former Australia defender Ljubo Milicevic believes under-fire coach Ange Postecoglou is being unfairly criticised amid questions over his future as the country vies to reach a fourth successive World Cup.
While preparations have begun for Australia's inter-confederation World Cup play-off against Honduras in November, Postecoglou's future is dominating headlines after it emerged the Asian Cup-winning boss will walk away following the two-legged tie – regardless of the result.
Postecoglou refused to deny those reports on Wednesday, less than 24 hours after the Socceroos kept their Russia 2018 hopes alive thanks a 2-1 extra-time win over Syria in Sydney, with the 52-year-old's philosophy and approach to the national team criticised in recent months, especially after benching Huddersfield Town midfielder Aaron Mooy for the return leg of the AFC play-off at ANZ Stadium.
Ex-FC Thun and Hajduk Split star Milicevic – an eight-time Socceroo who was part of the squad that beat Uruguay on penalties to qualify for the 2006 World Cup – feels Postecoglou is targeted for being different, telling Omnisport: "For me he's been our best coach to date. Definitely our best home-grown coach.
"We all talk about 2006 and qualifying for the World Cup, but let's not forget we needed penalties against Uruguay. So it's not like we all off a sudden started playing great football as a team. That was a great bunch of players produced by the Australian Institute of Sport predominantly, which the FFA in all its wisdom has decided to close down.
"What Ange has had to use as far as players go and what he's produced, I think he's done brilliantly. He won the Asian Cup, which we've never done before. We're playing a brand of football that we can be proud of, or at least enjoy watching.
"At times they haven't executed but by no means would I level the blame at him or even the players. They are in the hunt to qualify. Sure, it wasn't the direct route but that happens sometimes.
"Does it matter how you get there? Does it actually matter as long as you're there? Even if you don't get there, is it more important to get there playing a certain way like we did 20 years ago or even longer when there was no real direction from the coach? Or are we happier now that we have a coach who has beliefs and sticks to them, and because he doesn't get swayed by the media or selects his team according to what the media thinks so now we should lambast him?
"Being an ex-player at that level, I would have always loved to play under a coach that encouraged football like that."
Milicevic suggested Postecoglou's detractors have taken issue with the former Brisbane Roar boss' willingness to be "different".
He explained: "You look at life and society in general, anyone who dares to be different is shot down. Look at what we did to Jesus. Apparently, we put him on a cross. Now everyone worships him.
"Throughout the history of time, humanity has an operant nature to criticise those who dare to be different. Ange dares to coach in a different way and now all of these guys are criticising him when they were signing his praises not long ago."
There have been calls for Football Federation Australia to replace Postecoglou before the games against Honduras, with Sydney FC head coach Graham Arnold earmarked as a possible replacement, but Milicevic warned against it.
"It would be completely stupid to sack him before these two games," he said. "We did it once with Guus Hiddink, but we fluked it. Uruguay should have scored more goals in both matches. If it wasn't for Mark Schwarzer saving those penalties, John Aloisi would never have had the chance to score his.
"So let's not pretend that hiring Hiddink was a masterstroke. We still fluked it with our so-called best group of players."
|Liverpool´s 30-goal hero Salah: There´s more to come|
|Valverde: Coutinho dropped for the good of Barcelona|
|Garcia floors Rios for ninth-round TKO|
|Ronaldo better than Neymar? No says Xavi|
|Donovan Mitchell caps NBA All-Star challenges with dunk success|
|Anderson outlasts Nishikori to reach New York Open final|
|Steve Nash, Ray Allen among Basketball Hall of Fame finalists|
|Kevin Love: It was necessary to clean house in Cleveland|
|Real Madrid hurt you with nothing – Xavi says PSG loss an injustice|
|Conte: Chelsea need perfect game to stop Messi and Barcelona|
|LeBron James thanks Ingraham as Cavs All-Star vows to speak his mind|
|Archer says Rays could have best rotation in baseball|
|Bubba Watson takes lead with 65 at Genesis Open|
|Inter in a fragile moment, says Spalletti|
|Groves batters Eubank Jr to retain WBA crown|
|Montpellier see off plucky Oyonnax, Ashton stars in Stade mauling|
|Booed Emery praises PSG´s mental strength|
|Cavani hails ´good reaction´ as PSG bounce back in style|
|Thiem breezes past Monfils to set up Bedene showdown|
|Mourinho wants referees to have final say on VAR|
|Genoa 2 Inter 0: Pandev piles misery on old employers|
|Manchester United to host Brighton in FA Cup quarter-finals|
|Leinster see off Scarlets as Munster come up short in Cardiff|
|New No.1 Federer earns gritty Seppi win to book Rotterdam final|
|Mata ´still up for VAR´ despite disallowed goal at Huddersfield|
|Valverde: Barcelona had to suffer at Eibar|
|Championship Review: Fulham end Villa run, Cardiff pounce|
|Resilient Kvitova ousts Wozniacki in Doha thriller|
|Huddersfield Town 0 Manchester United 2: Lukaku sends visitors through after VAR controversy|
|Toomua inspires Tigers win over Quins, Worcester beat Gloucester|
|Bayern Munich boss Heynckes hails game-changing Muller|
|Locadia benefiting from ´competitive´ Brighton - Hughton|
|Baby on board? Alba dedicates Barca goal to girlfriend|
|West Brom future ´not a decision for me´, says Pardew|
|Lions get De Bruin off to winning start|
|Paris Saint-Germain 5 Strasbourg 2: Cavani at the double in bounce-back win|
|Bar-celona! Messi posts unwanted record|
|Barca go 31 LaLiga games unbeaten to tie club record|
|Mourinho: I don´t know and I don´t care when Pogba returns|
|Brighton and Hove Albion 3 Coventry City 1: Locadia, Ulloa lead Seagulls to quarter-finals|
|EIbar 0 Barcelona 2: Suarez and Alba seal points as Orellana sees red|
|West Brom 1 Southampton 2: Rondon stunner in vain as Baggies drop out|
|Wolfsburg 1 Bayern Munich 2: Lewandowski spot-on after Robben´s penalty miss|
|I hope Cutrone finds a beautiful girlfriend so he can rest and make love - Gattuso|
|Wellens claims Ruta del Sol lead, Froome suffers puncture|
|Goffin forced to retire in Rotterdam following freak eye injury|
|Allegri denies Champions League ´obsession´ ahead of Turin derby|
|Barry, Evans start for West Brom after training camp incident|
|Bottas unaffected by ´Halo´ on simulation runs|
|Sheffield Wednesday 0 Swansea City 0: Carvalhal settles for replay on Hillsborough return|
|Management ´tiring´ but Zidane not ready to leave Madrid just yet|
|Thiago back for Bayern as Heynckes rests stars for Besiktas|
|Simeone urges Atletico fans to get behind Griezmann|
|Robben amazed by Guardiola´s impact at Manchester City|
|Three-way tie for lead in Oman as Pavon falls away|
|McIlroy frustrated by added scrutiny of playing with Woods|
|Morgan to take it slow with Stokes and backs Rashid|
|Pogba out of Man Utd´s Huddersfield trip with illness|
|A-League Review: Perth ´Panenka´ punished, 10-man Adelaide rescue late draw|
|Dragons and Rabbitohs see off Super League opponents|
|Robben targets two more years at the ´highest level´|
|Rashford and Herrera ´have a chance´ of making Sevilla trip|
|Mixed feelings for Tiger Woods after missed cut at Riviera|
|Emery defends PSG star Neymar after Madrid display|
|Nishikori stays hot in New York as Anderson awaits|
|Kevin Durant: Laura Ingraham´s ignorant comment was racist|
|Thiem sets up Monfils semi-final showdown|
|Mahrez saga now over, says Leicester boss Puel|
|Cantlay, McDowell and Saunders top at Riviera as Woods makes early exit|
|Tiger Woods misses cut at Genesis Open|