The draw for the 2022 Asian Cup, which takes place during January in India took place today. Impetus’ Ben Gilby got reaction to the draw from Australia’s head coach Tony Gustavsson and assistant Mel Andreatta.
Artwork: Football Australia
The draw for the 2022 Asian Cup in India was made earlier today and Australia will be in Group B which also contains Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines who are now led by former Matildas head coach Alen Stajcic.
The Matildas will face the Philippines in their second game on Monday 24th January 2022 after opening against Indonesia on Friday 21st January and finishing the opening stage by taking on Thailand on Thursday 27th January. Matches for the competition will be taking place in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, and Pune.
The other groups drawn today see China, Chinese Taipei, India, and Iran in Group A with Japan, South Korea, Myanmar and Vietnam in Group C.
Australia’s head coach Tony Gustavsson spoke about his plans for ensuring the team have the best possible chance of success.
“Finally we know exactly what is ahead of us! So let’s start preparing. Going into any tournament, the opening game is always key. We have to focus 100% on getting a good start against Indonesia. We will do all the prep for all the group stage opponents, but the first game is important. Once you are in the tournament you can update that scouting ahead of the second and third game in the group.”
With just over two months to go before that first group game for The Matildas, Gustavsson spoke about preparation.
“We have an important camp coming up in November which will be the last FIFA window before we go and announce the roster for the tournament.
“We then have a lot of preparation time. It’s all about planning the smallest thing – the size of the pitches, type of grass and when it’s going to be watered. Plus scout the opponents, not just the group but who we may play if we win the group or come second in the group, what travelling around for the tournament looks like. Every little detail.”
With this being Gustavsson’s first Asian Cup, the Matildas head coach spoke about what he is most looking forward to: “I’ve spoken to players and staff around me who have far more experience of the tournament than me and I’m curious to get to play new teams that I haven’t played before.
“I’ve played Thailand before in a World Cup, but the other teams I haven’t. I can’t wait, but I need to take a lot from the staff and players around me who have Asian Cup experience.”
Matildas assistant coach Mel Andreatta was asked by the gathered press about the prospect of facing Stajcic and the Philippines.
“The group presents unique challenges for different reasons. We’ll be taking it one game at a time and make sure we put our best performances in each game.
“Alen, with his experience of our team and the individuals will present us with a unique challenge that we need to prepare for. Despite the fact that he knows our players well, we’ve still got to go out there to prepare our best and get a result in the second game in the group.
“We’ve had a coaching change in the past six months and a big thing that Tony Gustavsson has brought to us is game management and all the tools we now have for each opponent. This allows us to perform and manage games, to find a way to win.”
With the Asian Cup doubling as a World Cup qualifying competition for the continent’s nations, Australia have already qualified for the World Cup as co-hosts, so Andreatta was asked if this might change their approach in terms of selecting a slightly less experienced team than they might have otherwise.
“Tony talked about pressure at an earlier press conference. This is an opportunity for all the playing group whether they are new or experienced to find that drive or strength and resolve despite already having qualified for the World Cup. In a high-performance sport that’s what it’s all about.”
The point was made that, due to Covid, all of Australia’s group opponents have played very little international football and whether that would impact scouting ahead of the competition, however, Andreatta felt the Matildas were in a good place in terms of gathering knowledge about their opening three opponents.
“Our scouting set up means we can look at what their players are doing with the international team but also with their club team because despite they might not have as many match minutes as a nation, in a FIFA window you don’t have that much time together anyway.
“It’s about individual key players they have and how you can contain them or expose them. We feel that it’s all really our playing style and the way we prepare for a game can contain or expose any opponent. We’ll focus on us with the knowledge on key players that we can put together to ensure that we are prepared.”
Finally, the Matildas assistant coach spoke about how preparations will go in terms of matches ahead of the Asian Cup.
“We will be maximising the FIFA windows and we’re looking for a variety of high-quality opponents so we can keep building our playing style and testing it and be challenged by other team’s style.”