Impetus’ Ben Gilby was in the post-match press conference which followed an experimental Australia squad’s 7-0 defeat to Spain. He heard the Matildas head coach Tony Gustavsson outline how initial plans to field his strongest squad went up in flames and how he believes that deeper investment is needed to bring the next tier of players up to top international standard (26/6/22).
Above: Tony Gustavsson in his post-match media conference after last night’s 7-0 loss to Spain. Photo: Football Australia.
Tony Gustavsson went into this clash with Spain claiming that regardless of the outcome on the scoreboard, finding just one new player for his World Cup squad would be a good result. After his team’s second-half mauling by the Euros-bound Spanish, there are more searching topics for him to examine.
“I’m always honest,” he said. “When we planned this match, the plan was to have our best team here. We wanted to match ourselves against one of the best teams in the world. We knew 12 months ago that this was the only time this year we could go up against one of the best teams in Europe, a week out from the Euros.
“We would have loved to have had the strongest group here. But, at the end of the day, we had to look at well-being in a long-term way. We entered into a contract with the Spanish so the game was always going ahead.”
Asked about what this result shows about the depth of the Australian game that Gustavsson has long made a point at wanting to work on, the head coach said: “We need long-term answers. It’s about legacy from 2023 and the investment after the World Cup. The answers we have now is a wake-up call for a lot of people.
“It was too fast for some players. They need to be exposed to that. I’m not saying that to criticise these players, I’m saying it to get them to where they need to be. If they are not quick enough to get into the right positions, we’re not going to win.”
Given the squad that was available to him for this match, Gustavsson outlined how he approached the clash.
“We wanted to look at this game as two forty-five-minute periods. In the first of those periods, we got answers showing that, considering the experience, or lack of experience that we had on the park, to commit to a game-plan like that against Spain, one of the best teams in the world, I was happy with the girls’ efforts and commitments. The effort in the defending – it was a good mix between high pressing and low walk defending.
“A real positive was Katrina Gorry. ‘Mini’ was world-class. She showed she has the tactical ability to match any player in the Spain team. If she can get in an environment where she can be forced to play at maximum speed football, it will be even better for her. This is not me saying she doesn’t play at a club where she can do this, it is about her working on it now between international camps.”
As he moved on to the plan for the second half, Gustavsson recognised that he knew it was always going to be difficult.
“The second half, we looked at different things, different players, and I want to be very clear now that it’s not about blaming players for this loss. It’s more about representing the situation that we are in right now (in terms of a less experienced squad in this international window).
“We finished the game with four players who are playing NPL and one player in college, and to expect those individual players to match up against Spain, it’s not fair for them to take that hit.
“I will take that hit as a coach. I said it from day one, we need answers. We need investment in our program, and I think this was very clear. We need to make investment and players need to get into an environment where they can thrive and be ready for international football.”
One of several key matters to consider once the dust settles on this defeat is Gustavsson’s inability to settle on a regular goalkeeper. With Teagan Micah regularly playing well at international level when she gets a chance, and consistently at a high level for her club side, Rosengård, the time has come to give her a consistent run of 90-minute opportunities for the Matildas.
It would appear that Lydia Williams will play at least some part in next week’s friendly in Portugal to claim her hundredth cap, but with chances few and far between for her at Arsenal, and the Rosengård custodian in consistently good form, it is time for Micah to get as many minutes as possible behind her in the national team.