Impetus’ Ben Gilby heard from the head coaches of Australia and New Zealand, Tony Gustavsson and Jitka Klimková ahead of tomorrow’s second game between the two nations in Canberra (11/4/22).
Above: Australia head coach Tony Gustavsson at today’s media conference. Photo: Football Australia.
Tony Gustavsson has said that he is focussing on his team “converting chances when they come” ahead of tomorrow’s friendly with New Zealand in Canberra.
The Matildas dominated the first game against the Football Ferns in Townsville on Friday but had to wait until stoppage time at the end of 90 minutes to turn a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 win.
“I don’t want things to change too much for us because I think we played really well on Friday. What we have looked at a lot though is converting chances when they come. We should have been three or four-nil up at half-time. Almost 90% of our attacks in that game ended inside the final third.
“Another pleasing thing was the different ways we were creating chances – central combinations, transitional movements, longer passing sessions, and set plays.”
Gustavsson revealed that as well as regular training, there have been a lot of meetings with players ahead of tomorrow’s game.
“There have been further Asian Cup reviews and reviews of the first New Zealand game.”
In terms of reflecting on the disappointing Asian Cup campaign, the Matildas head coach said: “We had seven players with COVID over Christmas and 12 players playing zero minutes into the weeks leading into it. In the Korea game, we had a 45% reduction in sprints in the second half which impacted the way we want to play.
“In the Korea game, we had some good moments against them in the first half, but the second half it got a bit nervy and we started playing long balls. We also created lots of chances but did not convert. Games are won and lost like that. In the tournament, we conceded only two goals. One against Thailand near the end which was a lack of game management near the end and the free-kick in the wide-area against Korea. Those are things we need to guard against.”
Gustavsson addressed the criticism he is getting in some quarters for results and selections, asking for fairness and understanding the process that he was employed to oversee.
“Being a head coach – there is always criticism. Honestly, I like a debate and there will always be opinions about players selected and tactics. You just need to be fair and educated about what we are doing.
“When I came into the job I mentioned our stats in results against the top sides in the world and from 2011-2020 and you will see bad stats, to be honest. We said we need to play them more to be prepared next time. Therefore, the results in those friendlies may not make expectations. I think we’ve played too many lower-ranked opponents to prepare for tournaments before.
“The other thing is to connect to the Gap report about having more fringe players getting exposed. On average, we have fielded 2.4 new players per decade. Last year we fielded 14 debutants. If you combine that with playing some of the world’s top teams, it’s natural that results will be hard. I’m not saying that to try to protect myself, I’m just saying it is part of a process, a bigger journey.”
Australia’s head coach ended by highlighting what he particularly wants to see from his team tomorrow.
“Tomorrow is a different game and New Zealand will show learnings from the first one too. I want to see how fast we can play – the international game is getting quicker all the time and I want to see what we can do.
“The other focus point for me is in defence. There were times on Friday when we got away with being below 100% at the back. We need to fix that. We can be hurt against the top nations in the world if we are not focussed all the time.
“One of the biggest victories we have now is that we have 100% availability for tomorrow’s game. It makes it tough for me to decide who starts and who will be the game-changers.”
New Zealand head coach Jitka Klimková believes that her team are over the devastating way they lost a 1-0 lead against Australia in the first match on Friday.
“The team have recovered. Our sessions in Canberra have had quality and a lot of smiles. We are planning to compete in the same way and obviously have things to improve on. We’re glad to have another chance to play against strong opposition.
“If we see the amount of grit and determination every time we step onto the pitch, I will be really pleased. We can control the game better and keep the ball better no doubt, but we are going through those processes and focussing on them. I was very proud how we fought on Friday.”
Klimková had mixed news about player availability for tomorrow’s game starting with the worst possible outcome for Ria Percival.
“Ria has gone back to her club, Tottenham. She is so important for us. It is a long-term injury, an ACL injury to her left knee. Depending on the assessment she will out for the rest of the year.”
The Ferns though are hopeful of being able to call on Rebekah Stott who missed the game in Townsville. “We have to be careful. There are priorities with players’ health. However, it looks promising. If she is ready, she is always going to play. We think Stotty will step on to the field. She will help us to keep the ball better.”
New Zealand’s head coach highlighted the improvement areas that see is looking for from her team from Friday’s game to tomorrow’s.
“Set piece defending is one of our real work-ons after the first game. Along with this is the opportunity to play to win, to redeem ourselves. We want to show that grit from Friday. If we start to be consistent with that competitiveness and connection on the field, that is the way our future will look like. We need to keep hold of our friend, the ball more. That starts from trusting each other in possession.”
Klimková’s slightly longer-term aims are all about getting the Football Ferns in the right place for a home World Cup.
“The main thing we need is to play more games, keep the process and belief that this team can achieve its first wins in the World Cup and get out of the group. It won’t happen in one or two international windows. It is what we will keep working on for the rest of this year.
“What the players do outside of the window is important. We are making sure that players are continually pushed and learning ahead of July 2023.”