by Ben Gilby
Ahead of tomorrow’s friendly in Melbourne, Impetus hears from Australia head coach Tony Gustavsson and Sweden chief Peter Gerhardsson (11/11/22).
Above: Australia head coach Tony Gustavsson speaking to the media today. Image: Football Australia.
It’s All About “Pressing Attacking Football”
Matildas’ head coach Tony Gustavsson outlined in his media conference the key expectation for his team this international window.
One of the phrases that Gustavsson used repeatedly with the media today was “pressing attacking football. It’s his mantra, it’s what he wants to see, and is aware of the consequences of the potential of conceding goals that it comes with.
“Getting a ticket for the Matildas means they (the fans) know they will get pressing and attacking football. The players are so excited to be back and want to create a good feeling for the fans, particularly as our last group game in the World Cup will be played here.”
“We play a high-octane game and that tells on the legs. In the last 30 minutes, that’s when you need the fans. Let’s do that tomorrow together.”
“People might mention clean sheets. No. We need to score more goals than the opposition. We need to stay true to who we are. I’ve said it from day one, we are a pressing team. Can we do that against a top team when we’re still missing players, or will we cop three goals and therefore need to score four?”Tony Gustavsson, Australia head coach.
In terms of getting the players in the right positions to deliver this type of play, Australia’s head coach highlighted how high his standards are.
“I was a bit disappointed yesterday (in training) as the players looked flat which frustrated me. Today was gold standard. As today was a bit more intensive, we had a few knocks and so there are two question marks over selection tomorrow. I won’t identify them now as that may influence Sweden’s preparations. One blocked a shot with her foot and tweaked it.”
The Matildas’ last international action, which delivered impressive performances against South Africa in London and Denmark, saw an injury-ridden Australia try out some new combinations – with some excellent performances seen as a consequence. Gustavsson outlined how these deserve to be rewarded for the sake of ensuring his team has the best group of players as possible for the World Cup.
“Whilst we say we want continuity, that doesn’t mean that everyone is guaranteed (a place in the squad). It’s down to them if they want to be involved in the World Cup, as a starter, as a game changer. There is competition for spots now. I can challenge the players. In the last camp, some players took advantage of the opportunity so they need a second chance to see if they can step up against a top-level team.
“We are not talking about (always selecting) the best players, but the best link of players, the best collective team.
“We can beat a second or third-tier team, we need to prove we can against a top-level team. We are still missing players, particularly at the back, so I’m curious to see how we go tomorrow. Some of the scorelines have blinded people from the performances. We were very good against Canada in the first half.”
With Elise Kellond-Knight back in contention to play a part in this international window, Gustavsson spoke of her return being a careful balancing act.
“KK has had a couple of 90 minutes behind her, 60s and 45s. We need to be calm and low with expectations with her. She has come back and we need to see how long it takes her to make the step from clubland to international football. She has a fantastic role within the team. Her role with Kyra Cooney-Cross at Hammarby shows that in helping to develop Kyra as a player.”
Asked if he was concerned that Sam Kerr hasn’t scored as regularly in international football as some may wish, the Matildas’ head coach emphasised the reality of the situation.
“Sam came back to us after she needed a break mentally and physically. She didn’t play in June, and was ill during the last window. It’s not about her being in best form now, it’s about the World Cup.
“You can see very clearly if you look at club performances, players in form with clubs, perform with national teams. Form comes from club land. Coming into this camp, we have goals and assists from a lot of players from other players around the squad not just Sam.”
With Gustavsson facing off against the country of his birth once more tomorrow, he made it very clear that whilst he expects a tough match, it’s all about the green and gold tomorrow. “Peter (Gerhardsson – Sweden head coach) is a phenomenal coach. They have continuity over time. Look at their tournament results – semi-finals, finals. Do I want to beat them? Of course I do! The amount of times I’ve played Sweden in tournaments and friendlies is a lot. I would love to play them in the (World Cup) final.”
“I Want To Beat My Boy, I Want To Beat Tony!”
Sweden head coach Peter Gerhardsson emphasised how important it was to him and his team to make the long journey to Australia to face the Matildas in preparation for next year’s World Cup.
“It is very important for us to be here to get used to it. We had the first day and saw how much we could do (with jet lag). It is very individual with how it impacts the players. It is not the same as when we have training sessions in Europe. We had to be careful. It was a low load. Yesterday was better.
“The whole preparation is for the World Cup. We come out here on 10th July (next year) and play our first match on 23rd. We will have one training game whilst here and (we will) work out when the best time to play it will be after seeing how quick we recover after a match after the training and travel this time round.”
Gerhardsson revealed that his squad of 21 players are all fit for tomorrow’s game in Melbourne and is expecting a strong test against a team he sees as having many similarities with his own.
“Australia for us are good to meet. We know Tony and his tactics. Yet for me, it is (all about) what we can do. Tactically, it is interesting. They (Australia) change their formations in games. When you look at the Australia squad and the Sweden squad it is similar. Australia have five players in Sweden, we have about the same. The same number play in England, with top clubs there and across Europe.
“We play in an equal way. We both want speed. We both want passing. That’s modern football. If you want to go long in a tournament, speed and transitions are key. The game tomorrow will be like that. Many transitions. This is why I like to meet Australia.”
The Sweden head coach was questioned about the threat of Sam Kerr – but whilst full of praise for the Western Australian, he was clear that he knows what to expect and that his own team has threats too.
“Sam is one of the world’s best strikers. We have Stina Blackstenius. Sam is very good and clear what she can do. We do have Magdalena Eriksson too – she can tell us about Sam (being a Chelsea team mate of Kerr), but Sam can tell you about Magda! She is a winner, clever, speedy. It is good for us to meet that kind of player.”
In terms of what he specifically wants to see from his own team tomorrow, Gerhardsson was realistic about the limited control he has in terms of preparations. “The development of a national team is always with the clubs.
“We are nine months from the World Cup. In tournaments, we show we grow into a tournament. That is important. It is not playing a starting 11 now, but to see players, to see relationships. It is the smaller things now. Every game has its own life, so players develop at clubs. It is more important for them to play regular in championships for clubs than to play tomorrow.
“After the game tomorrow. if we see good things, it is about a feeling. It’s about trust. If we play well and do well then there is big trust. We can build it.”
The Swedish head coach comes up against a familiar opponent tomorrow in Matildas’ chief Tony Gustavsson. There is clearly a lot of respect between them.
“I know Tony, I like him. It was close for us to work together before. He was at Hammarby and I was at Helsingborgs and I was thinking of working with him, but Helsingborgs would not let me go. We are good friends. I love to beat my boy! I want to beat Tony!”