Tony Gustavsson spoke to the media after the CommBank Matildas were defeated by Canada 5-0 on Saturday afternoon AEDT (Friday evening local time).
He began by congratulating Canada for their performance and speaking to their strengths, particularly on their right-hand side. When assessing his own team’s performance, he praised their commitment to the game plan.
“We said we wanted to go extreme today and really test ourselves against one of the best teams in the world,” he explained. “We tried to play out from the back, tried to break lines, tried to combine to see where we are in that process, both as a team and also with individual players. That cost us – we knew that could cost us," he explained.
“I do think there’s a couple of really good takeaways for us from this one. One is that we can’t lose our verticality to get in behind the back line when the time is there, because we’re really good when we do that. I think the fact that we trained three days now with combination play, we lost a little bit of the mindset to get in behind and have more variation in that.
“Individually, I want to look at the game, but I said before that I want to win a player this game and get some answers, and the 30 minutes with Charlie Rule’s centre-back play was impressive. She hasn’t played that before. She has a profile that we think is exciting if you want to play more with the ball and I think her last 30 minutes was very impressive.”
He emphasised the reasons for the experimental starting lineup. These involved load management, testing different players in different positions, and giving new players opportunities to impress in the lead-up to the Olympic qualifiers against Uzbekistan in February.
Gustavsson explained that, as a senior national team, he is always looking to win - but that the long-term plan was more important than the short-term result.
“So we were willing to risk the result – not that we wanted to lose, but we were willing to look at players tonight, and it cost us,” he said.
He spoke about his coaching team’s thought process when it came to the makeup of the starting lineup.
“If you, for example, have a player that can only have one game [due to load management] – which game are we playing that with?” he pondered.
“If we mix [experience with inexperience], maybe we get them more likely to [have a] solid performance, but also at the expense of continuity in a potential starting lineup.”
He cited Teagan Micah, Aivi Luik, Clare Polkinghorne, Clare Wheeler and Courtney Nevin as players with more experience who were in the starting XI.
“There was still enough there to feel that we had a balance and a structure,” he said. “But I really credit the players for being committed to what we did.
“A couple of players have already said it straight after the game – this is exactly what we needed,” he added.
Remy Siemsen came off after appearing to pick up a slight ankle knock in the first half. Gustavsson expressed that they took her off just to be safe, and that it is hopefully nothing too serious.
He finished the press conference by explaining the use of the 4-4-2 – the same system that the first team uses on most occasions – despite the starting XI not necessarily suiting the formation player-for-player.
It meant that some players were in unfamiliar positions such as Rule at centre-back.
“We felt that these players deserve a chance to test that formation and see which player can fit in what role, and compete for spots in the same type of formation,” he explained.
The CommBank Matildas will now look ahead to their next game against Canada, on Tuesday night local time (Wednesday afternoon AEDT).