Impetus‘ Ben Gilby heard from both Australia head coach Tony Gustavsson and New Zealand’s Jitka Klimková ahead of tomorrow’s match between the two nations in Townsville (7/4/22).
Above: Australia head coach Tony Gustavsson talking to the media today in Townsville. Photo: Football Australia.
Australia’s head coach Tony Gustavsson highlighted the fact that tomorrow’s game with New Zealand will see the full use of his squad – not due to injury concerns – but because of the differences in arrival times for his playing group.
“It has been a challenge. Monday we had five players, Tuesday nine, Wednesday fifteen and a number of of those couldn’t train as they only just landed. We are adapting to what has been thrown at us and it won’t be an excuse as to how we perform on Friday.
“We have a meeting tonight to see who is available, also based on welfare. We will see lots of rotation tomorrow – not because players are not fit, but because of having to deal with the travel and the impact of that in playing 90 minutes.
“Sam Kerr trained today, she was one of those who arrived later this week. We will see how ready she is to play. If it was Sam’s choice, she’d play, but we have to look after what is right for her. Physically in the Olympics at times she should maybe not have played. We want Sam to be healthy and fit. She will probably be on the park, but the question is will it be from the start and for how long.”
Questioned about what his options are if the striker is not able to start, Gustavsson said: “Mary Fowler. Mary can be used as a nine or a 10. If we play her as a nine she is a linking/false nine and playmaker. We also though have Remy (Siemsen), Kyah Simon, and Em Gielnik. It depends on what weapon we need at the time.”
Gustavsson also spoke of his delight at having Katrina Gorry in camp. “Mini has been fantastic. Mel (Andreatta) has worked hard with her individually ahead of her return. I’m so impressed with how she adapted. She’s been flying with technical tests. Her best role is in an eight or 10. She has a unique skill set, she could potentially play as a six, as a playmaker. Her attacking skills are phenomenal. I’m intrigued and interested to see her play. We do need to ensure we don’t put pressure on her though, she’s been away for a long time.”
With this being Australia’s first international camp since the poor Asian Cup outcome, the Matildas head coach was clear with the media that there has been a detailed discussion with the players about what happened and what needs to be put right.
“We have addressed the Asian Cup problems. The vibe and energy is good. There is a healing process needed, wounds have to be healed. Today, the first day having everyone training was the first step to getting everyone ready and getting the wounds gone.”
Earlier in the day, it was announced that the Matildas are going to be the feature of a six-part Disney+ documentary series leading up to the World Cup. Gustavsson recognized that initially there were concerns that there could be negatives with having a camera crew following himself and his squad around, but any fears have been allayed and he feels it is a huge opportunity.
“It could have been a disturbance if handled wrong, but it has been handled perfectly. These players are not just about football, but wider. We’ve had good dialogue about how to handle it. There are many documentaries about different sports out there.
“The insights involved, the process, and the journey is so interesting. People will see what these players do to reach their full potential. They can be role models, not just for footballers, but for wider society. This one can make sure that this team gets all the attention and respect it deserves. It can reach out beyond football for getting these individuals and team widely respect.
“You have seen this week a bit of what goes behind the scenes for the players this week – meeting stakeholders, fans and the players as mothers. Meeks (Tameka Yallop) said it right yesterday, ‘We are a family’. I’m so happy to have the players’ babies in here, so happy with how everyone has welcomed them. The way they balance being a mother and a high-profile athlete is amazing.”
Focusing back on the job at hand, the Matildas head coach emphasized that the time for experimenting is coming to an end and hard choices about regular selections need to be made.
“The World Cup is now really close, there are not many international windows left. We can only play two games per window. Last year we looked at over 70 players and fielded over 40. We need to narrow down now and have more consistency in what we are doing. We haven’t had the same goalkeeper and backline, I need to have that now. That doesn’t mean that the door is closed to new players, but we need consistency now.
“We need to unite as a nation behind this team. It’s not about Sam Kerr, it’s not about me, it’s about coming together.”
New Zealand head coach Jitka Klimková spoke of her positivity going into tomorrow’s game with Australia.
“Our preparation has gone very well despite the high temperatures. The quality of the sessions is getting better and better. Our players from Europe and the USA have found it challenging to get to Australia. But everyone is here. What a beautiful stadium it is for us to play in here in Townsville.
“We have one concern over selection, Emma Rolston. We will assess that player tonight, but other than that, everyone has recovered from the long travel. She is more likely to be ready for the second match, but we will see.”
New Zealand go into the game having not beaten Australia since 1994, but Klimková believes that the chance is there. “Football is a beautiful game and we know anything can happen. We are facing a top opponent and that is a deliberate plan to test ourselves. We are preparing ourselves to beat them and getting something from the two games would be amazing. We are stepping out onto the field to get a win.
“It is special to play the Matildas as we are playing against our co-hosts for the World Cup and neighbours. In 469 days we will have our first World Cup game in Auckland and Australia will have theirs in Sydney. We’ve been in it together with them. On the field though it is all about competing. For me personally, seeing a lot of familiar faces in Australia (where Klimková coached Canberra United from 2011-2013) is lovely as they stay in my memory and heart.”
The Czech-born Football Ferns coach has identified three growth areas she is expecting to see from her team over the course of the two matches against the Matildas.
“Our goal for these games is to improve our flank defending, marking in the box, and clearances. Attacking wise, it is about combination play to get forward and making the right decisions in the final third.”
Klimková is expecting to get the full use from her squad for the matches in order to help her narrow down towards a settled squad for next year’s World Cup. “We’re in an exploring mode for our team, so we would love to see a lot of players on the field in these two matches to see where we are. Grace Jale hasn’t been with the Ferns for a while and it’s important to see her back. The result is important as well. Everyone who we think is ready at this point is going to play.
“The spirit of this team is very positive. We are connecting and making steps together every day to work as a team that creates a safe environment where everyone is courageous. We believe that if we have this in our team consistently, we can perform well consistently on the pitch too.
“Team development takes a while and it is a journey that we are on. We will make steps forward, we are. We are also prepared to make some backward steps in order to go forward again.
“We have competition for places now. There are tough decisions to make about selections. It’s a good situation to be in to discuss who is more ready. Our wider roster has 35 players. Our U20s have games too to see if some of the younger ones still should be invited into the Ferns squad. We are still talking to players who have not been with us yet and could join us, but the roster will become narrower in the upcoming months.”
The Football Ferns coach highlighted the inclusion of Ally Green, also eligible for Australia in her team’s training squad at present. Whist Green will not play, the coming days are about helping her make a decision about what national side to potentially play for.
“She is training hard and is figuring out what international football means for her. It is a journey. The main thing I am expecting from her is to compete and leave everything on the training pitch. She is learning how we want to play, the speed and style, but I am happy to have her with us. Having another left-back, right-back or winger is great for more options. She is a training player with us, not to play in the matches, but it is a first step.”