Tony Gustavsson: "I knew this was going to be a very, very tough challenge."
The Westfield Matildas suffered two defeats at the hands of Germany and the Netherlands in their return to international football.
For new coach, Tony Gustvasson the window provided plenty of opportunities and lessons to take into the coming months.
Aside from the results, there was plenty of excitement around the group finally being able to get together.
“I said in the beginning of the camp, I'm so happy to finally meet all the staff and all the players, to finally actually be in a camp with the team after a very, very long wait.” Gustavsson said in a press conference.
“It's been a pleasure meeting these people, a phenomenal group of staff that's been working extremely hard behind the scenes, but also, with all this laughter and a smile on their face. That's been a pleasure.”
The squad saw plenty of new faces with four debutantes – Beattie Goad, Indiah-Paige Riley, Alex Huynh, and Dylan Holmes – taking to the pitch across the two games, as well as players returning to the fold after long absences and, some more familiar faces.
“In terms of the players, I’ve been really impressed with experienced players, how they brought these new players on board and make them feel welcomed. I also liked the vibe and energy and the commitment to always try to be one day better, whether that's in this meeting room that we're in right now, when we had a lot of theory, a lot of video sessions or whether it was on the field.”
The Westfield Matildas’ first two opponents in over a year presented incredibly tough tests, with Germany ranked second in the world and the Netherlands sitting in fourth.
These were tests that Gustavsson believed the team needed to face, particularly as the national team enters three straight years of major tournaments.
“I knew this was going to be a very, very tough challenge. But from the very get go, even before I was appointed, this discussion was on the table. And I've been in this game for a long time. I know what it takes to prepare a team to win something. I know everyone wants us to be able to win something.”
Two heavy defeats invite a mountain of pressure onto the coach, but Gustavsson welcomed it.
“A coach for the Matildas is always going to be pressured. And if you lose two games, when we concede five goals in both games, of course, you're going to feel pressured. But that's a part of being a coach, and I am ready to go through that because I know we need it. And I hope as many as possible around me, is with me on that process.”
“I actually said to some people even before this camp, especially with the COVID situation, with player availability and the selection going into this camp, it's even going to be a more challenging situation than I thought to begin with.”
"It was going to be a challenge, even if we had the strongest team and everyone available for selection.”
“But we can't shy away from that, because that's exactly what this team needs.”
With players returning to their club sides, focus now turns to analysing and dissecting these games ahead of the next international window and the preparation for the Tokyo Olympics.
“What we're going to see in June is a coaching staff that's going to be a little bit more laser focused on trying to prepare a team for the Olympics. Because that's most likely one of the last camps we have before announcing a roster and preparing for that tournament.”
“So is it a challenge timewise? Yes, for sure. But we're going to do the best thing possible using the time as well as possible.”
The Tokyo 2020 draw will take place on April 21.