Gustavsson: "More to do before I make any final decisions"
Westfield Matildas Head Coach Tony Gustavsson spoke to the media on Wednesday ahead of the team's match against Denmark.
With Tokyo less than 50 days away, upcoming friendlies against Denmark and Sweden may prove to be the last chance for several players to secure their spot in the Japan-bound 18-player squad.
Tony Gustavsson has his sights set on two positive performances, however, understands that results in these friendly matches are not the upmost priority.
"Let's be very honest here, from my perspective, it's preparing for the Olympics," said the 47-year-old.
"So the result of an isolated game is not the most important, but every time we step on the field, we want to win. That's just who we are as coaches and as players."
I want to make sure that every time we step on the field, we wear that crest and want to play our best.
A larger squad has been named for the Denmark and Sweden friendlies compared to the matches back in April. The previous squad was restricted to only foreign-based players, with the new coach never having seen his domestic players until now.
With limited breaks between games in Tokyo, Gustavsson will be searching for players within the squad that he trusts will perform under pressure and under fatigue.
"We need to get cohesion from the core group of players that we think are going to be part of that Olympic roster."
"It's not just going to be the Starting 11 going into the Olympics, it's going to be 18 players and I need every single one of them, with only two days in between each game."
With the humidity and a tough schedule, we need to have all players available to look at as starters.
The added depth of this squad compared to the April friendlies will create a number of welcome headaches for Australia’s coaching staff, in terms of who to select in the side for the upcoming friendlies.
Gustavsson has little time to mix and experiment before the Olympics, with established combinations to be a key indicator for which players get selected.
“We have a training session this morning, that's going to help dictate the line-up, because we still have more to do before I make the final decisions.”
“But what I can say is the line-up is based on two things. One, we don't have that many minutes and games to prepare for this Olympics, so we need to try to find that cohesion and connections as soon as possible.”
“But the other piece is when prepping for a tournament, player availability is also key. We have some players coming back from surgery with limited playing time. We need to manage and put this puzzle together in a way that will also protect the players.”
Many experienced internationals including Steph Catley and Elise Kellond-Knight return to camp after a long injury lay-off.
The fitness of both players will be important for Australia’s success in Tokyo. Something Gustavsson and his medical staff will need to juggle is the amount of game-time both players get, while also trying to establish combinations with the rest of the squad.
“Yes, they need game time. But we also need to be careful.”
“Our Sport Science and Sport Medicine team is a big part, we get the recommendations of how many minutes we need to play a player, should we protect the play and so forth.
"We need minutes together too, but we need to protect players and have a plan for them to peak physically come Olympics.”
The April friendlies against Germany and The Netherlands provided a plethora of challenges for the Westfield Matildas to overcome. However, Gustavsson looks back on his first camp fondly, with a greater understanding of the Australian attitude to be professional but have a touch of banter.
“I said this after the April camp, I'm amazed and so inspired both by the staff and the players about the culture here. Their work ethic is phenomenal and the sense of humour, and their commitment, always wanting to get better.”
“You can sense it as a coach coming into this environment, all the staff members, all the players just thrive everyday there's feedback, you know, what can I do better? Can I do this better? You know, what can we do?”
“We have a quote that Mel [Assistant coach Mel Andreatta] has introduced, ‘lifters and shifters’. How can we ‘lift and shift’ to make us better every day?"
Denmark v Westfield Matildas
Friday, 11 June 2021
Venue: CASA Arena, Horsens
Kick Off: 02:00 (AEST)
Broadcast: Live on Fox Sports, Kayo, ABC and My Football Live app
Please note that all dates & times listed are AEST. Kick-off in Denmark is on Thursday, 10 June 2021 at 6:00pm local time.