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Home >> Sports
UPDATED: 10:33, July 29, 2005
Hope hinges on Guus Hiddink
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Billionaire businessman Frank Lowy is taking a calculated and expensive gamble to get Australia to next year's World Cup finals in Germany by head hunting master Dutch coach Guus Hiddink.

The calibre of the appointment underscores the desperation Australians have to break a 32-year hiatus and play at their first World Cup since their sole finals' appearance in Germany in 1974.

Lowy, the second-richest person in the country behind Kerry Packer with an estimated wealth of almost US$3.8 million, is used to getting his way in business.

Faced with rebuilding the fragmented, quarrelsome code that had hampered the growth of football in this sports-mad nation, the 75-year-old shopping centre magnate has moved heaven and earth to get Australia accepted on to the world football stage.

As part of a federal government review of the calamitous game, football-loving Lowy was offered the chance to use his business expertise to give the struggling sport credibility through proper governance, funding and management.

The Lowy-fuelled revolution has already seen Australia granted future World Cup qualification through neighbouring Asia from next January and a revamped, structured eight-team A-League, due to kick off next month.

But all the reform hinges on the stimulus a World Cup finals' campaign next year in Germany will have on the local game and Lowy is leaving nothing unturned in his quest to make it happen.

Lowy, a Czechoslovakian-born Israeli commando who emigrated to Australia in the 1950s and who built up his fortune from humble construction worker origins, made a big call in late June when he sacked national coach Frank Farina following Australia's wooden spoon performance in the Confederations Cup in Germany.

Australia were without a national coach four months out from an anticipated home-and-away showdown with a yet-to-be determined South American team, but Lowy knew who he wanted for the Socceroos' job.

"Obviously, there were a number of candidates we were considering, but without doubt Guus Hiddink is the outstanding candidate, he is an internationally-acclaimed coach and we are all very excited that he has taken this position," Lowy said via a video link-up from Europe (he was on business) at the unveiling of Hiddink as coach last week.

"The most urgent task, our highest priority is to prepare the Socceroos for the 2006 World Cup campaign.

"The appointment of Guus Hiddink is, we believe, the cornerstone of our World Cup efforts and the best