Gustavsson: Post-Portugal I’ve Got Answers

Martin Townley and Ben Gilby heard from Australia head coach Tony Gustavsson after last night’s 1-1 draw with Spain (29/6/22).

Above: Tony Gustavsson addresses the media from Portugal last night. Photo: Football Australia.

Prior to the Matildas’ double header in this international window against Spain and Portugal, head coach Tony Gustavsson said that he needed answers. 

His side was without a large number of established stars meaning his focus was to be on training and performances during the camp. 

Last night’s 1-1 draw with Portugal saw Princess Ibini score her first international goal just after halftime. Gustavsson was impressed with her contribution coming on from the bench – not just in terms of the goal, but also what she offered with her runs.

“Princess Ibini, who comes off the bench, has some unique skill sets. What we’re pleased with her is that she committed to run without the ball in this camp, both in training and in the game. 

“We knew what she can do with the ball. We’ve seen that in the A-League. She also commits to run more without the ball balls defensively, and in behind the back find like the goal today, for example, was a run empty run on the back post 30, 40 metres to score that goal.”

This camp however was not just about giving experience to new players as the Matildas coach also admitted that he was learned more about his wider squad.

“It’s not just about the new and younger ones. We tested (the others), playing Clare Wheeler in different roles to get answers on those players. We tested some of the backline players that have been with us for a while both in the back five and a back four both on the left and right-hand side. So, in that sense, I think we’ve gotten a lot of answers.”

“I’ve got a lot of answers on the individual players for sure. Not just from games but from training. We’ve seen some players perform good at clubland. And we have gotten an answer that some of their performances club land have been challenging to bring to the Matildas training environment because everything here is much faster.

“This is so much faster even though the tempo in the training camp this time around have not been the same as it normally is due to the lack of a lot of key international players. But still, it’s been a huge step for a few of them. But we think it’s good that they got exposed to it.

Despite feeling he has some positive answers Gustavsson, has faced criticism from some quarters for a lack of a consistent tactical approach and stating some of his players are not up to speed with international football.

Above: Lessons learned and answers gained according to Tony Gustavsson. Photo: Football Australia.

“I’m trying to be as consistent as I can with the players available in camp. In this second game, we went back to normal 4-3-3. We tried to be brave on the ball even though we knew it was going to be difficult and challenging against Portugal.

“I think they dominated us with the defending and not with the possession, but we tried to play out through that pressure and I thought we saw a lot of technical mistakes.

“We wanted to try to be ourselves in that sense more in this game even though we knew it was a tough game against Portugal

“I think what surprised me a little bit today like I said is that we struggled in the centre of the park with some of the more experienced and technical players that took too long on the ball and get dispossessed a lot.

“The Portugal aggressive pressing was better than our passing in that central area. So, I would like to see us improve in that sense.”

Gustavsson went on to say that with experienced players missing he didn’t have a team on the field that matched Australia’s ranking of 12th in the world. 

“Again, I think it’s the result that a lot of people think just looking at the rankings and look at the teams would say it’s a 12 ranked team against a 20-something ranked team that should win this game.

“What I ask then, is did we have a 12-ranked team on the field today? “That’s not to criticise the players. It’s where they are at and the lack of experience that we have in this team.”

When questioned about how this could affect the confidence of the players Gustavsson was quick to defend his methods. “I’m not criticising the players. But I’m saying that what I even said was, it’s unfair to expect these players to come out and win against Spain.

“I think it’s unfair because they’re coming from an environment where they’re not ready for it. And it’s not saying hey, you’re bad, you’re not good enough. It’s saying the environment you’re in right now has not made you ready for this type of international top-level football. But we brought you here because we think you can get ready for it, and when you get this experience and bring that back home to training.”

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