Sydney: Guus Hiddink emerged as a leading contender to coach Australia Sunday, with the country`s football chief indicating that the Dutchman had been sounded out following the sacking of Holger Osieck.
Osieck`s contract was terminated Saturday just eight months out from the World Cup after the Socceroos were thrashed 6-0 by France in an international friendly in Paris.
Despite guiding them to next year`s flagship tournament in Brazil, the veteran German`s position had been on the line ahead of Friday`s match in Paris after the team was hit for six by Brazil a month ago.
Football Federation Australia chief executive David Gallop told Fox Sports in France on Saturday that preliminary talks had taken place with Dutchman Hiddink, 66, who steered Australia to their best-ever placing at the World Cup when they reached the second round in Germany in 2006.
"There`s often conversations and it`s fair to say some feelers have been put out. Nothing more than that at this stage," Gallop said.
Gallop said the FFA wanted a new coach appointed in time for Australia`s home friendlies in November.
Hiddink, who was at Seoul`s World Cup stadium on Saturday to watch the friendly between South Korea and Brazil, did not say whether he was interested in a Socceroos return.
His agent Cees van Nieuwenhuizen, indicated that Hiddink will not make a decision until the end of this month.
"Guus is on a vacation and I will not discuss his future plans with him until towards the end of October," van Nieuwenhuizen said in comments published on the ABC News website.
"Guus will certainly listen to what they say, and his memories of his previous association with Australia are only good.
"He is keen to coach at the next World Cup and Australia is an option. He has spoken with Han Berger (FFA technical director). They have known each other a long time from their days in Dutch football."
Osieck`s deputy Aurelio Vidmar has been made caretaker Socceroos coach for Tuesday`s friendly with Canada in London, but he is unlikely as a permanent replacement, reports said.
While Hiddink, who is currently without a club, has been mentioned as Osieck`s successor, Australian coaches Ange Postecoglou, Graham Arnold and Tony Popovic are also possibilities.
"It certainly makes sense to have an Australian coach, but whether that makes sense right now, is something we need to look at seriously over the next few weeks," Gallop told Australian Associated Press.
"It`s not appropriate to go into who has been contacted and who hasn`t, but obviously some feelers have been put out.
"We`re always exploring options and, at the moment, that`s all we`re doing. Certainly it`s something we want to get along with straight away."
Gallop said whoever was appointed would have a strong focus on the Socceroos` long-term success, as well as a competitive showing at next year`s World Cup, just six months before Australia hosts the 2015 Asian Cup.
"This is about the need to rejuvenate, regenerate our team," Gallop said.
"We`ve got a lot to look forward to in the next months and years.
"Obviously Brazil is important, as is the Asian Cup 2015, and ultimately we want to be at the next World Cup as well. This is a decision taken in the long-term interests of the team."
Australia`s second 6-0 defeat in as many outings drew an angry reaction back home, with calls for Osieck to go and the Sydney Morning Herald deeming it "the most embarrassing pair of results in Socceroos history".
Osieck, who replaced Dutchman Pim Verbeek as national coach in August 2010, had 23 wins, 10 draws and 11 defeats in his 44 matches in charge.