Ben Gilby reports on today’s announcement of the 2023 Cup of Nations where Australia, Spain, Czech Republic, and Jamaica (12/1/23)
Above: Australia head coach Tony Gustavsson sees the carefully constructed Cup of Nations as a major part of his team’s World Cup preparations. Photo: Damien Briggs, supplied to Impetus by: Football Australia.
Australia today announced that the Cup of Nations will return during next month’s international window with the Matildas welcoming Spain, Czech Republic, and Jamaica to New South Wales for a round-robin tournament.
The action will kick-off at Industree Group Stadium in Gosford on 16th February when Spain will face Jamaica before Australia take on the Czech Republic. Three days later, the teams move to Parramatta’s CommBank Stadium where Jamaica will play Czech Republic and the Matildas will come up against Spain. The final round of matches are on 22nd February at McDonald Jones Stadium in Newcastle. This time Czech Republic will take on Spain and Australia host Jamaica.
The competition is specifically designed to as closely replicate the group stage of the World Cup with opponents specifically chosen to offer a range of challenges to enhance the Matildas’ preparations.
Speaking at Parramatta’s CommBank Stadium Football Australia CEO James Johnson underlined the importance of this event to help light the fire of the biggest ever year for the sport in the country’s history:
“I am so excited that we are in the year 2023. We fundamentally believe that the year 2023 will be the most exciting year in Australian football history. We (want to) use this (tournament) as an insight for the Australian community to see what the World Cup will be like.”
Also present at CommBank Stadium was the Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson who spoke of the carefully planned nature of this competition to give Australia the best possible build-up to July and August’s World Cup.
“Standing here, I am so pumped to get this going. I want to picture how this will be as a World Cup. I want it to mimic the group stage of the World Cup and see how it plays (out) with the fans in the stands to feed off that energy.
“This tournament is a small part of that wider preparation. Some players have played a lot of games. Some players will play on Sunday before the tournament starts. We might see some rotations as I need to see some players (in action) before the World Cup.”
The importance of the specific opposition that Australia have secured for the competition was also something Gustavsson highlighted.
“The fact that we have three different (styles of ) opponents replicates the World Cup. The Czech Republic are a big, strong team. They have showed in the last two years that they can achieve results against top teams. They are good at set-plays.
“If you look at Jamaica, we want (to come up against) a team that replicates Nigeria for the World Cup. If you look at their forwards, (such as Bunny Shaw from Manchester City), they can really hurt you on the break and we need to face that. Spain – we wanted to have a top-ranked team similar to Canada. Spain, although they have a different style to Canada, they are a passing team and we want to test our pressing game. That is a question – can our pressing game beat Spain’s passing game?
“We want to be a high octane ‘in your face’ sort of team, particularly on home soil with support from the fans. We have started to get more cohesion and consistency. That’s what I hope to see in this tournament.”
At the competition’s parallel launch in Newcastle, Gustavsson’s assistant Mel Andreatta was visibly excited about what is to come next month.
“It is a World Cup year – it’s finally here. We’re super pumped. What a year to start with a tournament in Australia. What an opportunity for all Australians to do what we are best at – hosting world-class sporting events.
“These opponents have been carefully chosen for us to prepare in the runway up to the World Cup. This is the best way for us to start our final preparations for the World Cup. Let’s get started!”
Also present at the launch were several Matildas players. Kyah Simon emphasised the importance of what is to come starting with the Cup of Nations in terms of the legacy for the next generation
“It’s a chance to watch strong, powerful female(s)… do what they do best and they can see that if a guy can do it, a girl can do it just as good.”Kyah Simon
From a players perspective, Tottenham Hotspur star stated how she believes that the challenges posed by Spain, Czech Republic, and Jamaica are hugely important to being ready for the World Cup. “To have a tournament like this before is crucial in terms of preparations to play three teams who are so different in terms of quality and football(ing) style.”
However, it’s not just the opposition that is important, it’s the start for Australian fans to get caught up in the atmosphere of watching a successful national side – and the Matildas are all out to build on what the Socceroos achieved in Qatar.
“Being back here for the back end of the Socceroos tournament (men’s World Cup campaign), I really saw the support (that they got) from the whole of Australia… definitely lit a fire in our bellies and got that excitement going. I hope the country gets behind us just as much as they did for the boys.”
Speaking back in Parramatta, striker Cortnee Vine was clear that Australia are going all out to make sure they right the wrongs from their last encounter against Spain, which saw a weakened Matildas side suffer a 7-0 defeat.
“I’m interested to play Spain again – we need redemption again. We need to see where we are against the best for the World Cup.
Vine also revealed that she is continuing to hone her skills as a finisher with the national squad coaches to give her the best possible chance of being selected for the World Cup squad.
“I’ve had a few words recently with the assistant coach (Mel Andreatta) to work on those little few executions of chances. I do get into good positions, but I need to get on the end of the chances. I really want to hear that crowd (when I score)!”
Breakthrough defender Charli Grant was also in Parramatta and highlighted that the importance for the Matildas to start World Cup year on the front foot.
To have a tournament leading into the World Cup against three different opposition is so good, and give a glimpse to the Australian public about what to expect in July. Hopefully, we can kick off 2023 with a bang.