The June window ends with the Westfield Matildas taking on Sweden in Sweden. The team faces another tough test against a team that is currently on an 11-game undefeated streak.
Following on from the loss to Denmark, head coach Tony Gustavsson was buoyed by sections of that match with one eye looking ahead to Tokyo.
“There are parts from our performance against Denmark that we looked at that we were very pleased with, but there's also parts where we need to take learnings and improve if we want to be at full potential come Olympics.” Gustavsson explained to media.
“So hopefully, we can improve in some of those areas against Sweden. But Sweden also gives us a little bit of a different challenge than Denmark does. So we need to be prepared for that as well.”
Since the team’s return to play, it has suffered three straight defeats. However, while losing is never fun, these matches make up the smaller building blocks of something bigger.
“Internally, we know what we're doing. And I also know that the players want to play this game, the last thing these players want to do is just play a simple game, to get some false confidence. They want to grow again, they want to play the best players, and they want to compete against the best.”
Across the three matches already played, the coach has seen improvement and buy in from the players as to how he wants them to perform and what the Westfield Matildas style of play should look like. Gustavsson was most pleased with the opening 10 minutes of play.
“We opened brilliantly, the first 10 minutes is close to perfect, except that we didn't put it away and the goalkeeper was brilliant. And you saw in those 10 minutes that the identity in the team is starting to get clear what we're about.”
“We want to be on the front foot, we want to be aggressive, we want to be a pressing team, we want to be an attacking team, we don't shy away even though we played Denmark away and we haven't been together for a while.”
The mentality of his players also impressed Gustavsson.
“The other one is the attitude and the Never Say Die attitude that we're always going to work on and see that that's always there. I mean, we went down 3-0 against Denmark and a lot of teams would have given up but you can see that this team never does that and that's definitely a marker as well. We can talk about tactics all day but if you want to win something, you need to have that mentality.”
The June window saw Gustavsson meet more of his squad for the first time and between injuries, seasons beginning and ending, and load management, he has had to utilise players in various ways.
Working on cohesion after a lengthy time apart has also created challenges but it’s something the entire team is working through together.
“First of all, we need to get some cohesion and some consistency in what we're doing. So we can't change too much with very, very few games. It's 11 of these players, the first time I meet them is now and some of them are restricted to 45 minutes. So some of these players have only played 45 minutes in a year and a half together. So that's obviously a big challenge compared to Sweden that has that cohesion and work together for a long time.”
“So we need some minutes together with a core group. But a core group doesn't mean a starting 11, a core group is more than a starting 11. Like I spoke about the last game, and the other pieces, we know we're going to announce a roster soon. So we do need to vet some players in positions as well to get some answers. So it's going to be a combination of both.”