Gustavsson: We need to be brave enough to test certain players in certain positions | Pre-Match Press Conference
Head coach Tony Gustavsson spoke to the media at the official pre-match press conference in Vancouver, as the CommBank Matildas prepare to take on Canada on Saturday night (Sunday 2.30pm AEDT).
There were several questions about Gustavsson’s status as head coach. He reiterated that his sole focus was on the team in the lead up to the Olympics.
“What I want to be clear on here is – all that is important to me – is that my sole focus is on the Matildas and making them qualify for the Olympics,” he expressed.
“We have unfinished business with this team. I’ve said that from day one. I know that there’s always going to be people that interpret that quote differently and speculate about this and this but the one thing that I want to be very, very clear on is that I am extremely passionate working with this team. I love this team.
“And what we have done really good – and one of the key reasons why we performed so well in the World Cup – is that as a team, staff and players, we are extremely connected. We talk to each other about everything and we look in, and not out. So all the potential disturbance that could be outside, and speculations – that is for the public. The players and me are focusing 100%.”
“The focus is just on qualifiers right now,” he continued. “My contract is to the Olympics and my sole focus is there.”
In terms of the games themselves, Gustavsson emphasised that this window is one for experimentation for the team. It is the final window before a two-legged Olympic qualifier against Uzbekistan in February.
“This is one of the very few windows before Olympic qualifiers, and potential Olympics that we want to go to, that we can actually experiment and look at players and look at things,” he said.
“This first game is going to be more – similar to my quote that I used when we played Spain, way back – that it’s maybe not about winning a game, but winning a player.
“So we’re going to give a lot of players an opportunity in this first game to look at them and what they’ve got in this environment so that they are given a fair chance to fight for a spot in an Olympic roster as well.”
With the likes of Sam Kerr, Mackenzie Arnold and Charli Grant ruled out through injury, the door has been opened for new players to receive game time and impress the coaching staff in Canada.
Three uncapped players – Jada Whyman, Charlie Rule, and Sarah Hunter - could be in line to debut, while others such as Remy Siemsen (6 appearances) and Amy Sayer (9 appearances) will hope to take their opportunities with both hands.
“We need to be brave enough to test certain players in certain positions,” Gustavsson said. “We need to test certain tactical aspects of the game or certain phases of the game, and learn from the mistakes that we will make tomorrow.”
“You will see some new players and new positions tomorrow… both these games are what we call development games, and trying to take this team to the next step.”
The series is a special occasion for Canada, with Christine Sinclair set to retire from international football during the window. The 40-year-old legend – with 190 international goals, the all-time record – will be honoured by her team, and the CommBank Matildas alike, during the games.
“I know that Canada will do their part, but I know that our team want to do their part to honour her before the game,” he said.
“But one way to honour her as well – she is a competitor. She wants a game, she wants it to be a game. I know these players are going to respect that in that way as well. Once the game starts, it’s two teams that really want to go at each other, and make the most out of every single minute out there, because that’s the best way to honour her.”
Finally, Gustavsson spoke about how his team will continue to grow the game after the success of the World Cup by providing a fantastic product on the pitch.
“At the end of the day, what we can do is to make sure that the product of 90-minute football is as good as possible so that people want to come watch us,” he explained.
“We’re always going to be aggressive in defending, we’re going to be taking a step forward, we’re going to be attacking minded, it’s going to be exciting to watch us play.”
Canada v CommBank Matildas
Date: Friday, 1 December 2023 (local) / Saturday, 2 December (AEDT)
Kick-off: 7.30pm PST (local) / 2.30pm (AEDT)
Venue: Starlight Stadium, Langford, BC
Broadcast: Network 10 and Paramount+
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