Above: Tony Gustavsson speaking to the media at the Asia Cup yesterday. Photo: AFC Asia Women’s Cup.
Ben Gilby heard from Australia’s head coach Tony Gustavsson after his team’s 4-0 win over the Philippines at the Asia Cup in Mumbai yesterday (25/1/22).
Australia made it two wins from two in Group B of the AFC Asia Women’s Cup after overcoming stubborn resistance from a Philippines side led by former Matildas head coach Alen Stajcic.
The first half saw Australia dominate but struggle to produce a telling final pass or accurate shots on goal, but after Sam Kerr put them ahead early in the second half, there was no stopping the Matildas with further strikes following from Emily van Egmond, Mary Fowler in addition to an own goal from Dominique Randle.
“We knew that this was going to be a very different game (to the opening 18-0 win over Indonesia)”, Gustavsson admitted, “I have to give a lot of credit to the Philippines, I thought that they made it very difficult for us. They did good preparation work.
“They didn’t surprise me. I saw them against Thailand and I knew they were good. I showed some video to the players so they would see what we would face. You can see that they are well organized. They had a very long prep-time and have fighting spirit. I’m really impressed by them.
“They play for their country with pride and are committed, physical, and work hard for each other. Some teams need to look out for them in this tournament.”
Australia’s head coach remarked how impressed he was that his players kept focused on the job in hand despite so many chances going begging in the opening 45 minutes.
“We were able to stay focussed and not get frustrated. When you create the number of chances that we did in the first half, and the stats say we should be up three or four-nil, and you don’t get those goals, you can lose your head. We talked about that at half-time – ‘keep doing what we are doing, just do it faster’. The players came out with confidence and conviction in the second half and we knew that when a first goal came, so would a second, third and fourth, and so it did.”
Gustavsson was questioned about his team’s reliance on long balls and crosses in the first half and missed chances. “I’m not concerned by missing chances. I think there is a lot of variation in our attack, actually. We’ve sharpened our central combinations and had three good sequences of play. The Philippines forced us out wide too. The way we attack means we earn corners and we know we are deadly from there. I was more impressed with the Philippines defence than I was disappointed with our attack.”
He emphasized his pride in seeing work from the training pitch transfer into match play. “I’m really happy how some of the things we did…in the pre-tournament training camp in Dubai came off. We scored goals from corners and so I’m really happy with the work of the players and the staff.”
The Matildas head coach outlined the reasons for the deeper role that Emily van Egmond (EvE) was deployed in during the game. “We knew that the Philippines were going to kick long a lot, play out from the back, take minimal risks and go long a lot. We wanted to have EvE’s aerial presence and I think she dominated in the air. We also knew that it was going to be very compact in the central area and we wanted to have EvE’s long-range passing.
“I also wanted to open up for Tameka Yallop to come onto the park because her penetrating runs through long blocks is very efficient, so different reasons.”
Having van Egmond play in this different role and the addition of Yallop meant that there was no place in the starting lineup for Clare Wheeler, and Gustavsson had words of comfort for the former Sydney FC star.
“I want to say that Clare Wheeler was fantastic in the opening game as a holding midfielder and the way she dictated the game. Long tournaments are not just about one game. We have different tools to use in different games. She was brilliant in that first game.”
Gustavsson also emphasized the influence that Sam Kerr has on the team other than her goalscoring. “She is a great captain and a great person. It is not just me who speaks at half-time, it is her as well. She is leading this team in such an impressive way.”
Australia’s head concluded by looking ahead to the final group game against Thailand on Thursday.
“We will treat it the same way as we have the opening two games. We have two main targets for the group stage. One was to win the group, the other is to get out of the group with as many players as possible available to peak mentally and physically going into the next stage.
In terms of selection for the Thailand game, Gustavsson revealed: “We will have a long meeting with the Sports Science department to see which players need playing time to peak in the next stage and who we need to protect. We protected players (against the Philippines) who had a few minor things. But we take this tournament really seriously and every game matters. I think everyone has seen that now with the two line-ups and what we have done in these games.”
For Kieran Yap’s report on Australia’s win over the Philippines, click here