Gustavsson: Positives In Flexibility; Disappointment In Concession

Impetus’ Ben Gilby and Kris Goman were in the Matildas post-match press conference and spoke to both Tony Gustavsson and Lydia Williams. Plus, Ben Gilby‘s round up beneath of the main events of a dramatic night.

Above: Sam Kerr pictured after putting the Matildas 2-0 up. Photo: Getty Images

Tony Gustavsson was in reflective mood after Australia were pulled back to a 2-2 draw with Brazil in Parramatta today.

Whilst the Matildas head coach spoke of his disappointment at conceding from a set-piece, he spoke of how proud he was of the way his players adapted to a half-time tactical switch involving a change in the deployment of Mary Fowler – something the team had not worked on during the build-up to the game.

Impetus’ Ben Gilby opened the press conference by asking Gustavsson about how he felt the team performed in the key areas he identified pre-game – notably as being calmer in the final third and improving the defensive transitions.

“My analyst just showed me some stats and today we actually struggled to get into the final third because Brazil were much more aggressive in their defending and we played too slow at times. In terms of our passing completion in the final third, statistically, it is not very good in this game. It was similar to the Ireland game when we gave the ball away a lot in the final third.

“But, and this is a big but, if you look at the second goal we scored, it was exactly what we have been working on. It was straight from the training ground, and the quality of that goal, and when you add that to the quality of the goal that we got when Sam (Kerr) and Steph (Catley) combined in the first game playing into EvE (Emily van Egmond), that type of combination play is what we are working on a lot.

“That’s what I mean when I say the players need to be more comfortable in the final third as we know we have the quality. We know we can be a good crossing team with Sam Kerr in the goal zone and we still want to play those when they are on, but when it is not, we need to have more variation and more quality in the final third.

“The second goal we scored when Ellie (Carpenter) did the give and go and Sam scored was world-class and we just need to do that more often.”

Brazil’s first goal on the night was from a set-piece, something which has been all too familiar to the Matildas over the past few months, but Gustavsson saw some positives at the back.

“This game tonight is a bit different for me compared to the others when it comes to defensive qualities. I’m really happy we got to play against some of the best forwards in the world and that Brazil came out with a stronger team tonight.

“There are normally a lot of goals scored in the games between us and them. As long as we score more, then I’m happy. Having said that, I do think there were some improvements on the defensive side.

“We have a really attacking outside back and we knew that Brazil were going to try and come with the counter-attack behind her to expose our center-backs, and we did a lot of work on that. They didn’t get in behind us as many times this game as they did last time. They didn’t get the one on ones with the goalkeeper tonight.

“We blocked a lot of shots in and around the box, and that’s something we’ve been working on in terms of our mind-set of defending the goal zone. It’s all about doing everything in our power to block shots. We blocked ten or 12 shots outside the box.

Above: Tony Gustavsson pictured earlier during this international window. Photo: Ben Gilby

“They didn’t have as many clear chances on goal this game compared to last game. Of course I’m disappointed that we conceded a goal from a corner. We know that set plays are very important.

“They were very good at screening Sam Kerr so she couldn’t get a free header. That is something we definitely need to keep working on.”

Gustavsson was asked about the scene after the game when he and Brazil legend Marta, a player he worked with in Swedish women’s club football spoke at length together on the pitch.

“I had the privilege of working with her for a few years in Swedish football with Tyresö and won a title with her there and went all the way to the Champions League Final. She is a world-class footballer and a world-class person.

“It was the first time that we had connected for a long time physically. We have talked to each other on the phone. It was nice to see her and connect with her. I said to her ‘Hey! You were a different team tonight! You were good, we were a bit lucky to get away there in the end because she could’ve scored.”

The conversation then turned to the rivalry between the two sides: “Wow! What fantastic entertainment! Two teams that like to challenge each other and two teams that have a really attacking mind-set towards football. When it’s 2-2, both teams were going for 3-2. No one was sitting back being conservative. It was all about our final third and their final third.

“Great entertainment. There were some nerves watching, but I love these types of football games. A tie was fair, to be honest.”

Impetus’ Kris Goman asked the Swede about bringing on substitutes on with ten minutes left with the game still in the balance.

Gustavsson responded: “It was a really important time of the game and from experience as a coach, sometimes you wait for that moment when things are already won or lost and give them a few minutes. But, if we really want to vet the depth of this roster, we need to have the confidence to throw them in during a pressure cooker. It was 2-2, going forth and back, going for a win. We needed fresh legs on the left side and Caitlin Foord was limited to a number of minutes. She actually extended the recommended minutes and I wanted fresh legs.

“The one moment that stands out for me from those players in that ten minutes is the slide tackle from Courtney Nevin. That mindset of coming in as a young player, she could have been nervous and hesitated but she didn’t hesitate a second. She used her speed and attitude with the slide tackle and won the ball.”

Asked about the role that both Kyra Cooney-Cross and Mary Fowler have in the team at the moment, The Matildas head coach said: “The classic when you have young players is to give them a few minutes on the wing, a smaller role and then grow into it. That is not what I’m about as a coach. I’m about quality of players and getting them in positions where they can do their best.

“Kyra Cooney-Cross is really, really good in the centre of the park, she can play at eight, she can play at ten or she can play at six. We are looking for depth in our defensive role at six and I think she was brilliant in the first game. This game shows that she still has some work to do at international level when it comes to playing to tempo. This is not a criticism, it’s just the natural evolution of her international career when you play against a high-tempo opponent and a pressing Brazil team, it is all fast and you need to make quick decisions. She has the technique, she has the game understanding, she has the physicality, it’s just getting used to the tempo and playing faster.

“With Clare Wheeler, she had all of the second half. She showed in this game that she did some learning from the first game. She played really fast and showed some physical presence in the second half.

“A comment on Mary Fowler. She really had to push through some physical challenges as she played in midfield. There was a lot of running and tracking with some physical battles there as well. As long as she plays in a position where she can be face up in front of the opponents’ backline, whether that’s coming inside from wide to central or playing the attacking midfield role.

“We did a tactical change at half-time and I really need to credit the players. It was a tactical change that we didn’t train on the ground. We had two minutes to do it. We put some video up with the help of an analyst and we rotated the triangle in the middle and put Mary as a ten and put EvE and Clare as two holding midfielders. That paid off big time. Credit to the players for being able to adjust and Mary was a key part of that.”

Above: Australia’s 32-year-old lynch pin Clare Polkinghorne, on the score sheet once more, was identified by Tony Gustavsson as “one of the most professional athletes that he has ever worked with” Photo: Yahoo! Sports Australia.

Referencing Clare Polkinghorne, Gustavsson said “She is one of the most professional athletes that I have ever worked with. The way she takes care of her body, the way she is focused in training, and the way she wants to get one day better every single day, whether it’s a video session, in the gym, or technically on the field, that’s the reason she performs why she does. I think she is a really good example to everyone out there who wants to extend their career that if you want it enough, and she does if you have that inner drive that she has and you can extend your career and play at this level.

“When it comes to her mindset in attacking plays she is one of a kind. She always expects the ball to come to where she is. She is looking for all the fallen fruit – when the ball drops down – she is looking for those moments and she is waiting. Her mindset and attitude is something I hope that a lot of players can copy.”

The final question came from Impetus’ Kris Goman who asked the Matildas head coach about plans for the November international window with a match still to be officially announced.

“I have to wait a little bit here. What I can say is that I personally cannot wait to get back into camp and get going again. There is going to be so much learning, especially from this last game that we can take into it.

“We need to put together as tough a schedule as possible from now until the World Cup 2023 and play top-ranked teams because we need to learn. Also, you need different kinds of teams tactically, so we get exposed to different types of tactics. We are definitely looking to play top teams as that is how we will develop going forward.”

Above: Australia goal keeper Lydia Williams, who also spoke to Impetus after the game. Photo: Sky Sports.

Also facing the media after the game was goalkeeper Lydia Williams. The Arsenal shot stopper emphasised how this second game with the South Americans was “always going to be harder. We have a new squad which is building towards the Asia Cup. It was frustrating how we let them back in.”

Impetus’ Ben Gilby then asked Williams about the growth in the team’s development over these two matches. “We have young players around and they are gaining more confidence. It’s really cool how they listen to those of us with more experience,” she said.

“We’re still building, we’re leading towards the next camp when we’ll have big preparations to come. Facing quality opposition is really important for us in terms of where we’re at. We’re not there yet, but there’s some good indicators.”

Asked about Brazil’s second goal which saw Tamires’ cross-shot come back off the bar before Debinha followed up to turn the ball over the line, the Western Australian revealed: “I was all set up for it to be a cross. It came of the top of the bar and I was waiting for it to come down when they got in. Disappointing!”

Above: It was a night full of passion in the stands once more at Parramatta. Photo: Football Australia

Australia 2-2 Brazil

By Ben Gilby

It was another harum-scarum night in Parramatta as Australia and Brazil played out a sensational match that would have had the neutral on the edge of their seat throughout.

The Matildas went ahead after eleven minutes. Steph Catley’s corner was headed clear only for Kyra Cooney-Cross to play it back into the box. Erika’s header fell to Clare Polkinghorne and the defender hit a side foot volley into the top of the net. Incredibly this was her third goal in three games for club and country.

Above: Australia celebrate Clare Polkinghorne’s goal after 11 minutes. Photo: Football Australia

Australia were then forced on the back foot by Brazil’s attacking, with the visitors aided by the Matildas coughing up possession too easily in tight spaces, but remained on top at the break.

After early chess-like maneuvers at the start of the second half, the home side doubled their lead with a superb team goal just under ten minutes in. Mary Fowler found Ellie Carpenter in the midfield. The Lyon right-back drove forward and played a 1-2 with Kyah Simon on the right-wing. Carpenter directed a ball into Sam Kerr who was positioned right of centre on the edge of the box and the Chelsea star got the ball out from under her feet and hit a great finish into the far corner. The East Fremantle born striker is now just one goal behind Tim Cahill in the all-time Australian scoring list.

Above: Sam Kerr pictured after scoring her country’s second goal on the night. Photo: Football Australia

Brazil built a head of steam once more and within ten minutes they got a goal back thanks to Erika’s header from a corner on the left.

With 18 minutes remaining they levelled the scores. Tamires’ cross shot from the left came back off the bar with Lydia Williams looking to have got a touch to it. Debinha followed up bravely with Alanna Kennedy to force the ball home, agonisingly colliding with the post as she did so.

The Brazilians had much of the remaining play, but Australia, with sub defenders Angie Beard and Courtney Nevin battling tirelessly kept the South Americans out and it finished a draw.

Teams: AUSTRALIA: Williams, Polkinghorne, Catley, Foord, Van Egmond, Fowler, Yallop, Kennedy, Cooney-Cross, Kerr, Carpenter. Subs: Beard, Nevin, Roestbakken, Wheeler, Whyman (GK), Rankin, Siemsen, Simon, Henry, Checker.

Scorers: Polkinghorne 11’, Kerr 54’

BRAZIL: Leticia, Tainara, Erika, Antonia, Tamires, Duda, Angelina, Kerolin, Adriana, Marta, Debinha. Subs: Lorena, Bruninha, Julia, Andressa, Thais, Gio, Ana Vitoria, Borges, Katrine, Ludmila.

Scorers: Erika 64’, Debinha 72’

Referee: Desiree Grundbacher (SUI)

Attendance: 12,087.

Above: Inside the Matildas’ dressing room at Parramatta pre-game. Photo: Football Australia

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