The Westfield Matildas' preparations for the Games ramp up with a friendly against Sweden on June 16th.
For coach Tony Gustavsson, the Rio Games silver medallists and 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup third-placed team present a different but equally strong test as Australia’s last two opponents.
“I think it's going to be a different challenge than Germany and the Holland game because this is a different type of team. And we also said we need to play different styles," explained Gustavsson.
"So not only is it a world class opponent, it's a different type of opponent that we played when we played Germany and Holland. So I expect it to be a really, really tough game, but also an important and good game for us.”
This match not only continues Australia’s preparations for July but allows the team to apply lessons from April's internationals. In what will be his third game in charge, the team will be able to continue to adapt to and absorb more of Gustavsson’s style and philosophy.
“I do think that the players really appreciate the fact that we do these investments in the program to make sure they get these quality games, but they do know that also it is a challenge."
"Considering we haven't had that many days together, we've had some injuries and some players not available for selection for different reasons, for COVID, and all these things. But I do think they appreciate these tough games.”
As the team sharpens its focus ahead of the Games – with the first match against New Zealand only nine weeks away – this friendly will provide more insights but also what strengths can be utilised more.
“But like I said before, we can't shy away from these tough games, we need them because we need to get exposed in the areas we need to improve. But also I think we can see which areas we can actually hurt teams in as well, because we do have some qualities that we need to use more in terms of positive qualities.
“So it's not just learning the weakness of the team, it’s also learning the key skills and the tools we have that is sharp enough to hurt world class teams.”
COVID-19’s effects on this squad and their time together is well known, with an almost 400 day break between matches for the Westfield Matildas.
Although the team is now able to get together, with health and safety guidelines in place, the pandemic is still influencing and changing the way in which this side gears up for its first major tournament since the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup and beyond.
“If this was a normal year, we would have had more time to let's call it experiment or look under every stone, try different players, maybe try different system, different formation to find out how do we get the best out of every player available to go in and perform in this Olympics? But due to circumstances that were out of our control with different things like cancelled camps and limited time to perform and so forth, we need to look at it a little bit different.” said Gustavsson.
This means working out what will work best for Australia at Tokyo.
“I am forced to look at it a little bit different because football is a team sport and it's about chemistry and relationships and having an understanding of each other. It's not just about here is one really good player, here's another really good player, and it's going to work well.”
“So in saying that, I think right now we're going from having a little bit of a broader perspective to now laser focus on the Olympics, and narrow down the focus. And when I say narrow down the focus, it also means narrow down the players.”
“Then post-Olympics, we then need to re-evaluate where we're at as a program and then start maybe potentially rebuilding and experiment a little bit more, because we have more time."
Sweden v Westfield Matildas
Wednesday, 16 June 2021
Venue: Kalmar Arena, Kalmar
Kick Off: 02:45 (AEST)
Broadcast: Live on Fox Sports, Kayo, ABC and My Football Live app
Please note that all dates & times listed are AEST. Kick-off in Sweden is on Tuesday, 15 June 2021 at 6:45pm local time.