Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson is treating Australia’s upcoming clash with the current World Cup holders, the USA, as a dress rehearsal for the 2023 Women’s World Cup final.
Australia and New Zealand are joint hosts for the tournament, and the pressure is on the Matildas to win the trophy or at least go deep into the final stages in front of home fans, following the Socceroos’ triumph at home in the 2015 Asian Cup.
What better way, according to Gustavsson, to prepare the Matildas than by cranking up the atmosphere and pressure for the first game against the world No.1 at Stadium Australia on November 27. He wants a big crowd and a fevered environment when the two teams meet in the first of a two-match series.
The USA might be sending an experimental squad without some of its biggest names, but that makes no difference to Gustavsson, who knows the American players well, having been an assistant coach of Team USA for several years including during their 2019 World Cup triumph.
“This game against the USA, we are never going to get closer to replicating the World Cup final before the World Cup than this first game against the US,” he told a press conference on Wednesday morning.
“It’s going to be played in the same stadium as the World Cup final is going to be played, we are playing the No.1-ranked team in the world in that stadium and with hopefully a record-breaking crowd.
Sam Kerr and Caitlin Foord celebrate after scoring against the US in Tokyo.Credit:Getty Images
“That means everything we do leading into that game is going to be mimicking what we would be doing going into a World Cup final. So I hope the players feel a lot of pressure going into this game, we are going to treat it like a World Cup final.
“If we want to be an elite team at the top we need to deal with it. We are going all in, we are going to impose our game plan and style on them.”
Gustavsson has named a mixture of experience and youth in this squad as he looks to refine it for the Asian Cup in 2022, the next major tournament the Matildas will compete in.
“From when we arrive, to those match days with what we hope will be record crowds, this is our chance to prepare for the big moments that want to be a part of in 2023,” he said.
Captain Sam Kerr and vice-captain Steph Catley lead the 21 players returning from October’s Brazil series. England-based duo Hayley Raso and Emily Gielnik are recalled following recovery from injury, while Young Matildas centre-back Jessika Nash and forward Charlize Rule will receive their first senior call-up.
“In selecting the squad, balance was at the heart of the decision-making,” said Gustavsson. “We know that this is our final occasion to see the group together before announcing the squad for the AFC Women’s Asian Cup next year, and our focus remains on this crucial preparation.”
The Matildas lost 4-3 to the USA in the Tokyo Olympics bronze-medal match, but Gustavsson believes that scoreline did not reflect the realities of the teams’ respective abilities.
“It wasn’t a 4-3 game. We did four individual mistakes and if you do that against the US it costs you.
If you look at the open play and the stats we matched them.
“We are right there. We need to go at them again … be that high-octane, high-energy, high-pressing team that’s going to attack.
“We need to test that now and see where we are at. We are definitely going to go for the win in our way.”
Matildas squad v USA
Mackenzie Arnold (gk), Angela Beard, Ellie Carpenter, Steph Catley, Kyra Cooney-Cross, Caitlin Foord, Mary Fowler, Emily Gielnik, Charlotte Grant, Bryleeh Henry, Alanna Kennedy, Sam Kerr (c), Teagan Micah (gk), Jessika Nash, Courtney Nevin, Clare Polkinghorne, Hayley Raso, Karly Roestbakken, Charlize Rule, Remy Siemsen, Kyah Simon, Emily van Egmond, Clare Wheeler, Lydia Williams (gk), Tameka Yallop.
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