by Ben Gilby (18/2/23)
Above: Matildas head coach Tony Gustavsson speaking to the media today in Sydney. Image: Football Australia.
Australia head coach Tony Gustavsson outlined his belief that his team will need to defend collectively and match Spain’s tempo if they are to come away with a positive outcome against the European giants in Parramatta tomorrow.
Those have been the key messages in training over the past 48 hours with Gustavsson telling the media: “It’s been about tempo, because that is what it will be about tomorrow when you play top opposition. Playing the top nations the challenge is, can we match the tempo?”
In terms of availability, the news was largely positive, although it comes with the caveat of players coming in with less club minutes having to back up two major international matches in three days.
“There is much more availability tomorrow than in the last game (against Czech Republic) in terms of competition for spots, not just about the starting line-up. Who starts, who comes off the bench,” admitted Gustavsson.
“We want (to field) the best possible team over 90 minutes. We need to live in this moment and maximise our performance.”
“I was impressed how they pulled through in that second half considering the lack of preparation, jet lag, and the lack of games some of the players have had in club land. Charlotte Grant has been in off-season, she hasn’t played a club game for three months, but she broke her record physically against the Czech Republic because she has been so professional in terms of her individual training, following the program. Seeing those numbers after the game was massive. The question is, can we back that up three days later?”
With Spain being the masters of possession led attacking football with a highly technical passing game with players comfortable on the ball, the Matildas boss highlighted the challenges that will pose to his squad.
“We are going to have to run against Spain. We need to pull through that and be ready to sub throughout 90 minutes to be fresh for 90 minutes. If you defend individually against the top teams, they break you down. You need to defend collectively. The only way to get exposed (to that) is to play the top opposition. You can’t get away from one player getting detached from the ball.”
“We are one of the best pressing teams in the world, they are one of the best passing teams in the world. Can we press against them still? We need to get exposed and feel that now before the World Cup.
“I don’t expect it to be perfect. I want to see if we can do what we did against Sweden as our goals came from pressing. We have to be humble knowing I watched Sweden play Spain, USA play Spain, and Japan play Spain. There will be times when it will not be perfect. They are too good for us to be perfect over 90 minutes.”
“I want to team being confident on the ball as we have shown that, if you look at the variation of attack…I want to see more of that tomorrow as well.”
Tomorrow’s game provides Australia with the opportunity to banish last year’s painful 7-0 loss when a vastly under-strength Matildas side went down to Spain. For Gustavsson, tomorrow is all about showing organisation and progress.
“The previous result stands from itself. The one thing Spain gives us is to test our defence against the best team in the world. We can face similar teams in the World Cup – England are on our side (of the draw), France are on our side, Germany are on our side, those teams could break us down in similar ways. Spain give us a fantastic opportunity to test our defending.”
PHOTO GALLERY FROM MATILDAS TRAINING SUPPLIED TO IMPETUS BY: TIFF WILLIAMS/FOOTBALL AUSTRALIA