Gustavsson: They want to learn | Pre-Match Press Conference

CommBank Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson spoke to the media ahead of his team’s second game against Canada, to be played on Wednesday AEDT (Tuesday local).

He began by confirming that the lineup for game two will be much changed from the first – that the team will try to play with the same identity, but with different personnel.

Matildas Insider Sign Up Thin Banner

He praised the application of his team in the first game despite the heavy defeat, and emphasised the tough situation they found themselves in.

“As a coach, you know what it’s like when you lose the game – either you get criticised for not explaining what you’re doing, or you get criticised for the explanation you gave,” he reflected.

“As long as that criticism is to me, it’s fine, but I think we need to be very respectful of these players. I think they were extremely professional in this last game to go all in and try things. Also, credit to the experienced players and support staff around to create a safe space for these young players to be out there and play this game.

“I know some people probably go like, ‘Hey, is this fair to the players to give them this type of experience?’ They love it. This is what they want. They want to play against top teams, they want to learn… it’s what they need.”

He later clarified that the game was about creating an environment where inexperienced players can better understand the level that they need to be at in order to succeed against top international team, and take that with them back to their clubs.

“It’s not that I’m going to judge them to say hey, they’re not good enough to play at this level,” he explained. “It’s more that they needed to taste this level to get a taste out of it and feel what it’s like – so when they go back to club land or play for u23 national team or u20 even, they know what it takes to play at this level.”

“To be clear,” he continued, in response to a later question, “the reason why a lot of them were out there is because they deserved it. They’ve been phenomenal in terms of developing as players. They’re ready to experience that now, to get that experience.”

In terms of team news, he said that there were two players in the squad with question marks hanging over them. Katrina Gorry was rested from training with a minor illness, while another unnamed player was being monitored.

The CommBank Matildas during their final MD-1 training session of the year at Christine Sinclair Place, BC, Canada. (Photo: Rachel Bach/By The White Line)
The CommBank Matildas during their final MD-1 training session of the year at Christine Sinclair Place, BC, Canada. (Photo: Rachel Bach/By The White Line)

The game will be an emotional occasion for the Canadian team, with the retirement of the greatest-ever international goal scorer, Christine Sinclair. Gustavsson was asked what it meant for the CommBank Matildas to be a part of her send-off match.

He said that some players who had played with her in the past reached out, and “want to honour her in the best way possible.”

“She’s one of the biggest players ever to play the game,” he expanded.

“When this camp is over, [I’m] definitely going to pick up the phone and talk to her, and congratulate her on her amazing career.”

He spoke about what the coaching staff had learned from the game itself in terms of the way that the team played.

“What we did learn is that we did force it through [the lines] when maybe we should have played around and over,” he explained. “It’s the classic decision-making, right – so that has nothing to do with the type of lineup it is, it’s about the decision-making.”

“You know what it’s like when you focus on something, you tend to just do that. So we looked at a lot of patterns to play through, and activate the sixes behind the forwards, and break the first line and second line when maybe we could’ve broken three lines with one pass.”

He finished by explaining the focus of the camp, as it is the last time the squad will be together before the home and away Olympic qualifying matches against Uzbekistan in February.

“Normally in a FIFA window we spend an equal amount of time in each phase of play… but this window we have spent maybe 85-90% on our build-up phase,” he said. “I think you could also see that a little bit in our defending in the last game.”

“We felt that we really needed to use this window and invest in that number one development area.”

Canada v CommBank Matildas
Date: Tuesday, 5 December 2023 (local) / Wednesday, 6 December (AEDT)
Kick-off: 7.00pm PST (local) / 2.00pm (AEDT)
Venue: Christine Sinclair Place, Vancouver, BC
Broadcast: Network 10 and Paramount+