Gustavsson - The next thing now is investment

CommBank Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson was made available to the press after his side were defeated by Sweden 2-0 in the third-place play-off.

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He said that Sweden came out flying in the first 15 minutes, and that their high press was very difficult to deal with. They played direct and physical – just as we have come to expect from Sweden – and were coming off an extra 24 hours rest.

“We knew they were going to come out flying but I don’t think we handled it very well,” he explained. “Those 15 minutes was more them playing the game in front of us and finding a way to survive, which we did.”

“Then that moment of the PK really cost us, scoring the first goal in the bronze medal game is massive. That PK hurt us a lot in terms of momentum in the game.

“Second half we spoke about a couple of tactical adjustments, which I think paid off… But it didn’t pay off in goals.

“Everything is very equal [in statistics]. They were more efficient than us. But at the end of the day, I think we lost against the better team. I think Sweden was better than us tonight.”

Gustavsson’s substitution strategy throughout the tournament came under heavy scrutiny, and he was asked about his rotation policy at the press conference.

He explained that his team selections were based on data – that teams who are the most consistent have better records in tournament football. This is also helped by the partnerships that are built over long periods of time on the park.

“When I’ve said 23 in 23, that doesn’t necessarily mean 23 players should play,” he said. “It means that we need 23 players.

“The way that the players have supported each other, stuck together, even if it’s second or third goalkeeper or if it’s someone like Kyah Simon who’s there for a PK, or if it’s a game changer who knows that they’re in the roster to go in and close out a game or go for a goal – it’s been 23 in 23.”

He explained later in the press conference that Kyah Simon was ready to play more minutes before the tournament. However, she had two setbacks – a minor one prior to the squad selection cut-off, and a more major one after – that meant that she was not able to take as much of a part in the tournament as was planned.

“When it comes to substitution, we’ve had a clear strategy to go into tournament based on experience but also based on some stats,” Gustavsson continued. “If you look at both men’s and women’s big tournaments and you look at teams that won a lot of medals, continuity in starting line-up and less rotation in rosters has been a success factor.

“We believe in relationships. The more time you spend together, the better you play together. It’s not necessarily always about the best players… The players know that this has been a clear strategy that you saw in the Olympics.

“I think it is a fair question but I still stand by my decision and what’s best for the team.”

In terms of legacy and what needs to happen to take the team to the next level, Gustavsson was clear – investment and funding for the long term.

“I think it’s a massive achievement for these players considering the resources  - we compare the financial resources in the top ten ranked teams, with how much we get… To be able to break into the top four in the world, I think it’s unique,” he said.

“But the next thing now is investment. Long-term investment, not just a quick fix, because a lot of these players, will play in the Olympics as well. So keep investing in these players and have a lot of players knocking on the door wanting to be a part of it.

“But now it’s the long-term investment to really make sure that we benefit from this crossroad moment for women’s football in this country.”

Finally, he emphasised his love for the team.

“I love working with this team,” he said. “It resonates with me as a coach, the identity, and the why. And I’ve said it before I don’t see this as an end of a journey. I see it as a beginning of a journey.”

Attention will now turn to Olympic qualifiers in October.