Gustavsson: We were on a mission

Fans were treated to a goal-fest by the CommBank Matildas last night, when they completed the final match of their Olympic Qualification series, defeating Uzbekistan 10-0 and claiming their ticket to Paris 2024. Tony Gustavsson fronted media to discuss the match.

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By the time the first-half whistle blew, the Australians had already nabbed eight goals after opening the onslaught in the 36th second.

"You could sense the focus in the group when the game started, they were on a mission," Gustavsson explained. 

"We had a very good training session yesterday and I know for a fact that these players feed off the energy in the stands and that was massive tonight, you can see we came out flying from minute one," he continued, crediting the 54,120-strong crowd at Marvel Stadium.

In terms of where he thought the team succeeded, Gustavsson had a long list.

 Steph Catley (C) of Australia and team mates thank fans during the AFC Women's Olympic Football Tournament Paris 2024 Asian Qualifier Round 3 match between Australia Matildas and Uzbekistan at Marvel Stadium on February 28, 2024 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Kelly Defina/Getty Images)

"Good finishing passes today, final passes and good finishing as well. But what I did like is the variation in attack, there was a lot of central combination, more than we've done before, as well as a lot of wide combination. We were effective on set plays, as we've always been," he said.

 "After the World Cup we did an analysis of what we needed to improve. We know that we're top three in the world, when it comes to breaking the last line, our vertical game in behind the last line has been tremendously good over the last two years and our pressing game has been really good," he explained. 

"But we've struggled in the build-up phase to break the first and second line in possession and we've also struggled a little bit against low blocks to create when there's less space behind the backline. So we invested a lot of time to plan for that and be better at it.

"We've been on the journey to that and to see five games against low blocks ending up with a 26-nil in differential, and see what we've done in terms of investing in that attack, that makes me really happy because now we're sending messages to our opposition that, if you press us, we'll go behind you, because we use the space and speed. If you park the bus, we open it up, because we have tools to do that now," Gustavsson continued.

Gustavsson also praised the team for their adaptability.

"The last thing I'm going to say is how appreciative I am that these players are so coachable," he said. "They come from so many different clubs, have been away from each other for three months, there are a lot of new players coming in, so to get this game plan, looking the way it did, to look that synced. I'm really, really impressed by the players to do that."

After forcing an own goal in the 36th second and claiming her debut goal in the 22nd minute, newest recruit Kaitlyn Torpey was a talking point for media who asked Gustavsson if she had showed him what he wanted to see.

"I got to see more, to be honest. I know she has quality, we've seen it in club, and we've seen it in the Under 23s. She was selected based on performance. She's not in here to be developed. She's in here because she's ready to train in our environment," Gustavsson said.

Hayley Raso of Australia celebrates scoring a goal with Kaitlyn Torpey of Australia during the AFC Women's Olympic Football Tournament Paris 2024 Asian Qualifier Round 3 match between Australia Matildas and Uzbekistan at Marvel Stadium on February 28, 2024 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Kelly Defina/Getty Images)

"In the first three days, we were very positively surprised by how quickly she adjusted to the tempo. Last time I saw a player do it that quickly was when Clare Hunt came in a year ago and you don't know that until they come into this environment, how quickly they can adjust to it, because it is a different level.

"She did it and that's why she started, not to try her out to see, she played as a starter because she proved in training that she was ready for it. Today you saw it as well. I think mentally she got that first game out of her system and now she could relax and do what we saw in training. The fact that she's versatile and can be used in so many different positions, I'm really impressed."

Journalists were also eager to hear if her four-goal haul had been enough for Michelle Heyman to cement herself a second Olympic appearance.

"That's definitely one of those question marks I have already," he said. "When you look at a roster like that, what type of players do you need? Who do you need as a game changer, as a starter. I am big on connection and chemistry and also need to see who fits to play together and I was extremely impressed tonight to see the connection between Mini (Katrina Gorry) and Michelle.

"So for me, it's not just about the quality of one individual player, it is about the chemistry between players. So when I select the squad for the Olympics, I might leave some players out of that roster who are better individually. But it's about building the best team, getting the right players in the right position with the right mindset and that have the chemistry out there."