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Australia may be a few points off becoming one of the early qualified teams for next year's World Cup under Pim Verbeek, but the blunt-talking Dutch coach is ruffling a few feathers along the way.
The Socceroos are sailing along unbeaten in their Asian group, two points clear of Japan and with a six-point buffer over third-placed Qatar and Bahrain with the top two teams of the group qualifying automatically for South Africa 2010.
Verbeek, 52, is clearly performing the task that Football Federation Australia employed him for in the wake of the country's 2007 Asian Cup debacle, where the team was knocked out in the quarterfinals. But the forthright Dutchman is upsetting local sensitivities over the domestic A-League competition.
Within weeks of his December 2007 appointment, Verbeek made his feelings known when he claimed that training in Europe was better than playing in the fledgling eight-team A-League.
Local commentators were prepared to pass over his criticisms given the mounting successes of the national team, climbing to an all-time high of 27 on the latest Fifa world rankings, including a prestige 2-1 win over world number three the Netherlands during his tenure.
But Verbeek further upset the pundits when he said that Socceroos midfielder Jason Culina might be jeopardising his World Cup place by leaving Europe to play in the A-League later this year.
Culina, at 28 and in his prime, is regarded as the first front-line Australian international to opt to play in the A-League and forsake the higher-level European competition.
The PSV Eindhoven midfielder has been a regular in Verbeek's squads for the World Cup qualifiers but the Dutchman voiced his concerns over Culina returning home to play for new A-League club, Gold Coast United.
"I've never made a secret about that and Jason knows it also," Verbeek said.
"It's up to him to try to keep the level he has at the moment. He's a great player and, like I always said, if I'm honest he's coming a year too early if you're in my seat with my responsibility."
Verbeek said Culina will face a battle in the less intense A-League to train at the level he is experiencing in Holland.
Verbeek hit a raw nerve with A-League club officials angered that the national coach may be jeopardising their efforts to entice other established Socceroos home from Europe. - Sapa-AFP