Gustavsson Speaks About Group Stage Positives

Above: Clare Wheeler and Tony Gustavsson pictured at their media conference yesterday. Photo: AFC Asia Women’s Cup.

Australia head coach Tony Gustavsson was joined by midfielder Clare Wheeler to discuss the Matildas game against Thailand at the AFC Asia Cup. Photo: Football Australia (28/1/22).

Australia head coach Tony Gustavsson spoke about the positives he took from his players’ reaction to the last gasp concession in their 2-1 win over Thailand when he faced the media in Mumbai.

Gustavsson also highlighted the importance of Cortnee Vine to the team and how he sees her as being capable of influencing a game both from deep and in attack.

He first turned his attention to the last gasp goal for Thailand which meant that the Matildas narrowly missed out on navigating the group stage without conceding.

“My first thoughts are how upset the team were after the game. They were upset that we conceded in overtime. We put pride in clean sheets and we have done a phenomenal job defensively. When we lose the ball, we work hard, but the players were really upset that we conceded that goal, and that says a lot about the mission that these players are on now. Instead of celebrating a group stage win, they were upset about conceding a goal. That says a lot about their mindset and that makes me happy.

“The other thing that makes me happy is that we had two clear goals for the group stage, one that we win the group and the other that we have our players fit and in the peak of form. The fact that we have had every one of our 23 players on the park during our group stage sends out a message that we need everyone, and I’m really happy that we have had everyone on the park.”

The Matildas head coach explained in greater detail the thinking behind using all of his available players across the group stage, and the order in which they were selected.

“I’ve been really happy with the way we’ve managed the load of the players during the group stage. The team behind the players has done a phenomenal planning job and spent a lot of hours looking at players who haven’t played for a month coming in and others who have played a lot. Some players needed consistent minutes, others needed heavy minutes at the start and then a bit of a rest. Some players we needed to be careful with at the start of the tournament so they didn’t get injured and so they weren’t used until today.

“I’m happy from both a physical perspective and a football perspective. No matter who was on the park we played the same way. We had an aggressive mindset, we attacked a lot. There were a lot of chances, I think 24 shots again. We could have scored a lot more.”

Above: The Australia team that started yesterday’s final Group B game at the AFC Asia Cup against Thailand. Photo provided to Impetus by: Football Australia.

Gustavsson last came up against Thailand during the 2019 World Cup in France when he was part of the USA’s coaching setup. The Swede offered his thoughts on their development over the past two and a half years.

“I think they are a very well-organized team. They have some interesting individual skill-sets and they acted a bit differently (in the match against Australia) than how they were earlier in the group stage when I watched them. They were very conservative in defending and they went a bit longer from the goalkeeper than I have seen before as I was impressed previously with their passing game.

“They took very minimum risks (against Australia) which surprised me because they are very good in their attacking game. I can understand it though as we are good in our pressing game and they didn’t want to take any risks. I see a (Thailand) team that is well organized with a lot of technical players in it.”

Cortnee Vine made her first start for the Matildas in the match, and Gustavsson explained his thinking behind playing her in a deeper role than she has done for Sydney FC in the A-League Women this season.

“We’ve been working in the pre-tournament camp with different options among our roster and different tools. Vine has a really interesting profile as a player. She is an expert out wide taking players on, one-on-one. She was one of the best attackers in this game during the first half, for example. She created a lot on the right side for us.

“But also with her pace and her decision making, she could be a backup for us in the outside-back position both with her pace and with her passing. We tried her as a right-back in Dubai in the pre-camp because we want to have a different profile of players and also because of load. Ellie Carpenter had a yellow card going into this game and also load-wise needed a rest.

“Towards the end, we needed to sub her (Vine) out for fatigue and bring Kyah (Simon) on which meant Simon dropped into right-back.”

Gustavsson ended by praising the resilience in his players after Tameka Yallop tested positive for COVID ahead of the game.

Above: Tony Gustavsson explains the positives from Australia’s group stage campaign. Photo: AFC Asia Women’s Cup.

“We’ve had many camps with COVID safe protocols now. The players’ ability to adapt and change has really impressed me. The players feel trust in our medical team and the COVID protocols that are in place. We have experts around us and we follow their guidance.”

Clare Wheeler was also present at the media conference and outlined her thoughts on the game against Thailand.

“Regardless of your normal starters, you need 23 players to win the trophy, including game-changers off the bench and that is what you saw today. We tried our hardest and with the goal (that Thailand scored), it’s something that we will look to improve on. Everyone has played a role in the group stage and we can be proud of that.”

The Fortuna Hjørring midfielder spoke about the importance she gave to the game as Australia was virtually assured qualification as group winners regardless of the outcome.

“Every match we want to do our best. We have our standards. It doesn’t matter if it’s a group match, a play-off, or a quarter-final, so every game is like a final for us.”

Wheeler concluded by speaking, from a player’s perspective, about team-mate Yallop’s positive COVID test.

“We’re all around Tameka (supporting her). We trust our medical team and all openly communicate about how we are feeling and make changes if we need to. Things like this in the group bring us closer together.

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