The Commonwealth Bank Matildas will regroup for the first time post-Olympics with a friendly scheduled against the Republic of Ireland on September 22nd.
Head coach Tony Gustavsson has selected a 25-player squad with a particular focus on defenders. Following on from Australia’s fourth-place finish in Tokyo, Gustavsson and his team have analysed the tournament and are ready to apply those learnings to the next phase of games.
“We spent a lot of time after the Olympics doing an in depth review of our performances, to look into every aspect: attacking, defending, individual player performance, depth in the roster, everything.” Gustavsson explained.
“So based on that, we also looked at ‘where do we need to be in '23 on home soil? Where are the 'one day better' improvements we need to do in every aspect of the game?’ This is kind of a kick-off to a new journey, a new chapter in our journey to get better.”
This new chapter includes fresh faces from the 22 players who were in the squad for Tokyo. For Gustavsson and the coaching staff, this camp and friendly present an opportunity to blood and a new round of players.
“One of the things we wanted to do is give a lot of players the opportunity to come into the Matildas' environment, even maybe some of those players that are not really ready to be brought in, because we need to see what they can be, in two years from now," he said.
“The only way to do that is to bring them into the Matildas' environment, to expose them to that high international tempo environment that we have, whether that is by exposing them to the training environment, or even if they do well enough in training and get some minutes on the pitch.
“So we go now from being in the Olympics, which is performance mode to going back to preparation and that means you might see a different approach to games, then in the Olympics.”
An area that is getting a lot of attention this camp is the defence with 11 defenders named including three potential debutants - Angie Beard, Jamilla Rankin, and Winonah Heatley – and two returning players – Jenna McCormick and Emma Checker.
“As you can see, we've chosen to bring in a lot of defenders to this camp, which again, is tough for some of our attacking midfielders and forwards because I think we've got some quality players not being brought into this camp, who actually I think based on performance, deserve to be brought in.
"We felt that this point, we needed to give more room for multiple defenders to be brought in.”
While this camp will be used to improve and explore defensive options as well as continuing to progress in game management and adaptability, this camp also gives the team another opportunity to sharpen the tools which were so effective at Tokyo 2020.
“We also need to keep improving the high end of our game, that's the weapons," Gustavsson said.
“If you look at the amount of goals we scored, and what kind of goals we scored, analysis shows that we had much more variation in attack this tournament than for example, the World Cup 2019.
"We scored goals in multiple ways, both left side and right side, both transition and attack, more organized and set plays, so we need to keep sharpening those weapons and make sure we are good at the areas that gave us all those goals.”
The Commonwealth Bank Matildas will play only one friendly in the September window, with a focus on training and individual preparation. The Republic of Ireland offer up a challenge this team hasn’t yet faced, literally; it’s the first meeting between the two nations.
Gustavsson expects a tough contest regardless.
“We said we need to play as many unique opponents as possible, meaning different type of opponents and Ireland is giving us a very different kind of picture than the other European games have done so far.
"That's good for us because we always need to adjust to different challenges.
“What Ireland is going to give us is that they're extremely hard working and they don't shy away from a tackle. It's going to be physical game, they're never going to give up in those challenges and the runs and the physicality of the game. So in that sense, it's a good game for us.”