Gustavsson: It’s About Momentum

Impetus’ Ryan Miller-Woods heard from Australia head coach Tony Gustavsson ahead of the Matildas’ second friendly against Canada tomorrow (5/9/22).

Above: Matildas head coach Tony Gustavsson has a lot to ponder ahead of tomorrow’s second game with Canada. Image: Football Australia.

Tony Gustavsson admitted today that he is still not sure on the availability of a number of his players ahead of their second friendly against Canada in Sydney.

“We tested some of the players in football but also afterwards some high-speed running because we have some soft tissue issues and some of the players weren’t available for the first game and we will hear later how they responded to that.

“Steph Catley is a question mark, for example, we decide that tonight, Caitlin Foord went through the training good, but we need to see how she responds tonight to that training. Those are the two ones that, Meeks (Tameka Yallop) trained fully as well and also Cortnee Vine trained fully, so hopefully, there’s some more players available for the game tomorrow but I won’t know for certain until tonight.

Above: Tony Gustavsson speaking to the media today in Sydney. Image: Football Australia.

“We looked at backup options, but we said that let’s wait for the training today because if three to four players pulled up well tonight, we don’t need it and if we do get an option that we can bring someone in, we do it, late call tomorrow just as a back-up on the bench so we have numbers at least but it doesn’t look like we need to right now cause in the training today, I actually had 19 outfield players that fulfilled the training but that includes Steph (Catley) that’s a little bit of a question mark, so it looks better going into this game than the first one.”

With the match being the first-round ball occasion hosted by the new Allianz Stadium, the Matildas head coach emphasised that tomorrow is more about building momentum for his team than a stadium opening.

“Everything is about momentum in sport, right? To get that momentum and I’ve been around in this game long enough for these 22 years to have taught me that sometimes you need a result just for the momentum and the belief around you, right? In that sense it is important.

“Internally, there’s still and I know some people might be sick and tired of me saying this but internally, we know what we have done, we know where we are and there’s a belief in the process and I don’t think that belief is going to be lost, even if we lose the game if that makes sense. I will be more worried if the game didn’t look good, you know, if performances are not there if they’re not playing the way we want to play, then maybe you can start to say ‘What’s happening here, right? But I think for the momentum, in that sense, I do think it is important and also for the outside, you know?

Above: Tony Gustavsson reflects on the importance of building momentum. Image: Football Australia.

“What we want to do is we want to inspire and these women want to fill this stadium on the 20th of July (2023), so if we can pull out a good performance, that could lead to a good result and get that momentum and the ways of positivity and then we want to fill this stadium.”

As Gustavsson highlighted, the countdown toward next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand is getting closer by the day, there is no question that the heat is being turned up on the Matildas head coach and his team to get results and performances on a more regular basis.

“I mean, it might be unfair to ask for trust in the process but I understand what it’s like, I do, you know I’ve been there on the other side as well and when you don’t see what is happening on the inside and you want to see those results to get the belief but I think Sam (Kerr) and the players, they deserve all the belief that they can get and even if we happen to lose a friendly or so, I think you know, if they can feel the belief from the fans, look at those last 50 minutes against Canada from Brisbane, for example, it was the fans, carrying us through those 50 minutes and we almost scored two goals because of that energy and the belief that we can do with the ‘Never Say Die’ attitude again like we’ve done a lot of times before.

“I’d say as well that it is important to look at the whole picture and see what we’ve tried to do. Maybe I can look at the mirror sometimes and say ‘Was I overambitious’ you know, trying to build depth in the roster and at the same time played the toughest schedule in the history of this program and maybe that wasn’t the best for the belief and the trust from the outside but I was very clear with the federation (Football Australia) and with the players, what we were doing, so I think internally the patience is there to trust us, the belief is there but externally I understand the question, I do and it’s fair.”

Above: Tony Gustavsson admits he has more options in midfield and up front compared to defence. Image: Football Australia.

There has been a degree of criticism over Australia’s defence, and Gustavsson emphasised that he sees that his team are attack heavy in terms of player numbers.

“We are definitely overloaded in the midfield, there’s tons of fantastic midfielders in this country and that’s a challenge because there’s not room for every single one of them. You saw in the last game that I played a centre midfielder out wide with Kyra Cooney-Cross because she has been phenomenal in clubland (for Hammarby) when she comes back from injury and she’s been phenomenal in training, so she deserved a start. So I choose to put her out on the 11 because I know she can play out there and by the way, she had a phenomenal second half (against Canada in Brisbane).

“When it comes to Chids (Alex Chidiac), all she can do is keep focusing on what she is doing right now meaning deliver good games in clubland (for Racing Louisville), coming in here, and try to prove for me that she deserves minutes on the field but it is tough competition, it’s tough competition for her, for Meeks (Tameka Yallop), for Chloe Logarzo, for Kyra Cooney-Cross, EVE (Emily van Egmond), Mary (Fowler), you name it, you know, it’s just a few of all the world-class midfielders, we add Wheeler (Clare Wheeler) to that list as well, Mini (Katrina Gorry) who’s normally maybe an eight or 10, who plays in the six role, you add KK (Elise Kellond-Knight) to that, coming back playing games now, a bit too early to bring her into this camp, I spoke to her but hopefully, we see her in the October camp and then here you go and there might be room for three of them.”

After the performance in the first game against Canada in Brisbane on Saturday, it will be interesting to look out for what Australia can, as a whole, do differently to get a result in Sydney.

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