Impetus editor Ben Gilby listened to Australia head coach Tony Gustavsson’s press conference today prior to the Matildas return to home soil for the first time since early 2020 when they take on Brazil in Parramatta tomorrow. Picture of Matildas training at Sydney’s Olympic Stadium provided to Impetus by Football Australia.
Gustavsson opened the press conference by addressing the allegations made by Lisa De Vanna about abuse and bullying within the Matildas set up in the past.
“I want to show my respect to everyone who is at the centre of all of this. I want to be clear that the well-being of the players and the staff in the team is the number one priority for us. We need to ensure we create a safe and secure environment.
“We need to meet the inquiry head on and make sure we get one day better on and off the field.”
“I was shocked (by the allegations made by Lisa De Vanna). There were a lot of emotions going through me. I felt that we must support the people who are at the centre of this.
“My experience of the team culture has been nothing but positive, however that does not mean I am belittling what everyone has said. I am the proudest and happiest man in international football to be coach of the Matildas. I’m like a kid before Christmas.
“The chemistry, family feeling that exists between the players and staff is wonderful.
“That doesn’t mean we stop here – we don’t stop getting one day better.”
Gustavsson then talked about the specific factors that influenced the early days of the training camp this time round.
“This camp was a little bit different as the players arrived on different days. We need to thank the New South Wales government to allow this happen. The first few days of the camp were about recovery from jet lag and getting the players up and running. Thursday was the first day we could go with high intensity.
“Today (Friday), we nailed down the game plan. It is a short lead-in time to get sorted. We went to the stadium to have a walk through last night. What a beautiful stadium.
“It’s been a privilege to come to Australia for the first time. The team who have a head coach who is going to peak with excitement before game day!
“I’m extremely excited to be playing Brazil! Who doesn’t remember the Miracle of Montpellier? There are so many things to be excited about – Alanna Kennedy playing her 100th game, being back in Australia for the first time in 600 days and playing Brazil, one of our greatest rivals.”
The Matildas head coach then drew the gathered media a diagram showing pressures coming to a high performance environment from both inside and outside the camp. In the middle of the circular diagram is what Gustavsson termed “The fresh air zone which is very small. If we want to be part of the team winning the World Cup in 2023 that’s what we need to get used to.
“We have to begin to get used to this and, from the Ireland loss, we are using this to get used to that pressure.”
The Swede used the analogy that at the moment the Matildas are going through “growing pains”. He admitted that they are not where they want to be at the moment, but that’s not a disaster. They are in the growth process at the present time.”
“The players cannot wait to get out onto the field. They haven’t been in Australia for over 600 days. I can feel their excitement and determination to get out on the pitch in front of fans.”
“If I was a coach 15 years ago, I would have said we need to park the bus and can’t keep conceding goals, and build towards Sam (Kerr) getting a goal for a 1-0 win. I want us to have an attacking mind-set. Our challenge now is to say ‘can we stay true to how we are, but can we improve defending?’
“We played an Ireland team who wanted it more. We might have mentally relaxed. Maybe it was a bit like a pre-season camp. I put a lot of emphasis on us celebrating Sam’s hundredth cap and we went north all the time because the players wanted to give Sam that goal so much, so we didn’t play the way we wanted to.
“We didn’t train defending set pieces due to limited time and we conceded three goals from set plays, so that’s on me. Can we fix it? Is it an easy fix? Yes.
“When I look at the game again and the statistics, statistically it is the game we dominated the most since I came in as coach, but some easy goals from set plays and lack of quality in the final third hurt us and it has to improve against Brazil.”
“You are definitely going to see tomorrow (against Brazil) that we will be aggressive and you will see space. We need to be a better job at stopping the opponents. We need to read it better. We had sub group meetings with the players today about how we can do it better.
“We have conceded a lot of goals, but you blame me for that, not the players. The Ireland game, now the Brazil games are to prepare for the Asia Cup. We want to win every game we play, but I want to put the team through what they need to prepare to be successful at the Asia Cup. I agree we need to be better defensively, but not to the extent of our game plan.”
Also talking to the media in the build up to the game was Arsenal’s Caitlin Foord.
This camp marks the first time Foord has been home in almost two years.
“It feels nice to be back on Australian soil. For me personally it has been almost 19 months since my last game here,” Foord said.
“I can’t even explain how nice it was to see Australia flying in. It was just a crazy feeling after being [away for] so long.”
The match sees not just the return of the Matildas to Australia, but also the return of fans to international sports events in NSW. The 26-year-old is excited at the prospect of having vocal home support again.
“It’s huge to play here in front of home fans. It’s a little bit more exciting this time than the others to have everyone back, and I think it will be just as exciting for fans as well. There is going to be a big buzz around the game.”