Ben Gilby reports on the post-match media conference that followed the Matildas’ 3-0 win over Jamaica today to win the Cup of Nations as both head coaches, Tony Gustavsson and Lorne Donaldson spoke to the press along with Player of the Tournament Mackenzie Arnold (22/2/23).
Australia head coach Tony Gustavsson was delighted that his team extended their winning mentality to lift a trophy at last as the Matildas won the Cup of Nations today in Newcastle.
“Some of the players have been part of the squad for 17 years and they’ve only lifted silverware three times – 2010 Asia Cup and 2017 and 2019 tournament wins, so this doesn’t come around too often, lifting a trophy. We need to get that opportunity to win and that was amazing.
“The one thing we have learned is what it feels like to win. It wasn’t a great game tonight. It wasn’t a great first half against Czech Republic. It wasn’t a great second half against Spain, but tournament football is about finding ways to win, grinding your way through.”
Reflecting on the resilience of his squad to stick to the game plan consistently across the last week despite not always having things their own way on the pitch, the Matildas boss said, “I really credit the players tonight – the way they stayed loyal and true to the plan we had.
“We’ve realised that we can score goals, and score goals in multiple different ways. We’ve averaged 3.3 goals in the last seven games. We can attack that way, and we’ve kept a clean sheet four out of the last five.
“This was tournament football, not a friendly. You are coaching to win. It’s about momentum. We had to read where the momentum was, and how to change it. We weren’t on fire from the start.”
Asked why certain players started and others didn’t, Gustavsson emphasised the importance of impact from the bench and the ability of specific players to influence the game at the right time.
“I want to stress again how important it is to be good over 90 minutes. We need to talk about who the best team to finish the match is. Who are the game changers? It is not that one player is better than another so they start, it might be that the player is the best option to start, to have different tools to change the game.
“I think we all agree that ‘Chids’ (Alex Chidiac) deserves to start based on performance. It doesn’t mean she should start – it means what is best for the game. We looked at Jamaica and saw they start the game well and get stretched the longer the game goes on. We felt that Crummer should run in the first half, and when it opens up a bit, ‘Chids’ ability to run between those lines can unlock things, which she did well.”
Gustavsson highlighted the impact that domestically based players such as Clare Hunt and Cortnee Vine have had on the tournament. Hunt has fitted in seamlessly to international football for the first time in the three matches of this tournament, with Vine scoring a sensational goal against Spain.
“I want to credit the A-League in terms of what they are doing. We’ve seen players go straight in from the A-League to play international football and that step is tough. To jump and then handle it is a big jump, and credit to the A-League players and clubs to be ready for international football. That’s massive. It sends a message to players playing domestically – if you work hard and the door opens, be ready.”
Australia goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold outlined her determination to make the most of her opportunities during the Cup of Nations, and was rewarded for doing so after being named as player of the tournament.
Speaking to the media after the match, Arnold explained: “I come off a couple of good performances for West Ham and it was like a mindset of having nothing to lose. An opportunity came up and I wanted to grab it with both hands, which is something I haven’t done in the past. Confidence wise it’s really a boost for me having not played in the national team for quite a while.
“This being the only real tournament format we had ahead of the World Cup, it was important to get those games under our belt in 10 days. To perform as we did, we’ve got a bit to work on, but the performances were really good. It was a very positive tournament for us.”
Another player who has certainly grabbed an opportunity over the past week and shone is Western Sydney Wanderers captain Clare Hunt, and Arnold was full of praise for Hunt’s performances at this embryonic stage of the defender’s international career.
“She’s been unreal. especially with the mindset she has come in with. She has shown so much confidence and composure on the ball. We needed that. She will definitely push for a place in the World Cup spot.”
The West Ham United goalkeeper was also thrilled about the prospect of playing in the Matildas’ next scheduled match against European champions England at Brentford.
“I’m really excited, it’s definitely going to be an insane game! They are a competitive squad and a lot of them we faced in the Olympics with GB, so they will be wanting redemption (the Matildas won a dramatic encounter 4-3 in extra-time), so it’s a massive game for both teams.
Jamaica head coach Lorne Donaldson spoke about how, for him, this competition was not about results, more about moulding a wider squad of players together ahead of the World Cup.
Donaldson underlined the situation that the Jamaican national side faces at the present time when he said: “We are a young team and we don’t have the luxury of playing a lot of games. Our background with players is college players, club players, or those out of a job right now (players without a club), so we are trying to bring them together and build depth. The tournament helped us tremendously.”
Asked about his thoughts on the game, Donaldson emphasised his sense of pride in his side’s efforts, which he felt were not reflected on the scoreboard.
“They (Australia) were at full strength and we are missing our top, top player, and our leading goalscorer (Bunny Shaw), and she is the leading scorer in the WSL right now. Maybe if we had her here it would be different, but the girls we have here put up a tremendous fight. The score of the game didn’t indicate to me the level of both teams. It was a closer game than 3-0.
“Australia – you have Sam Kerr. When you have Sam out there, and a goalkeeper like that (Mackenzie Arnold), you are going to be (up) there. I like Australia, I like what they have done, the results weren’t there, but the last six months they are getting stronger and stronger. I like the way they play and the energy they bring to the game is tremendous.”