Gustavsson - "We proved today that we have taken massive steps"

CommBank Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson and Player of the Match Caitlin Foord spoke to the media after Australia’s decisive 8-0 victory over the Philippines.

Gustavsson was up first. He said that the performance included some of the best combination play that he had seen during his tenure.

“Last time we played them it was nil-nil at halftime and it took a corner to open them up. This time we opened them up in a completely different way,” he explained.

“I think it was a little bit of a crossroad moment for this team to be honest, in terms of what we want to be about now. We want to be a top team in the world, to be able to play like favourites and to be able to play parked buses. We proved today that we have taken massive steps.

“At the same time, the job is not done yet. We have one more game to go, we’re going to take pictures from this one, and then deliver in another game on Wednesday.”

One of the tactical big changes from the World Cup was the shift of Mary Fowler to the left-hand side of attack, while Caitlin Foord played centrally alongside Sam Kerr. This has been on the back of club football where Fowler has played consistent minutes for Manchester City on the left of a front three.

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Gustavsson was asked about the role that this move played in the performance, given Caitlin Foord’s seven goal contributions – three goals and four assists – which was the equal-most ever recorded for the CommBank Matildas.

“I’ve always said as a national team coach – the majority of all the development happens in clubs, and then you take into the national team, and my job is to get the right players in the right position with the right mindset,” the Swedish coach said.

“Mary has been phenomenal out wide with City. We tested it last game and we felt that Steph [Catley] and her find similar chemistry as Caitlin and Steph did. So we said, let’s try it. I had high hopes but maybe not this high hopes. I mean, Caitlin was phenomenal.”

The coach emphasised professional recovery was key to ensuring that the team could get the job done against Chinese Taipei on Wednesday, as well as preparing for the types of turnarounds that could become apparent if the team qualifies for Paris 2024.

“If you want to go all the way to the Olympics, this is how tight the games will be in the Olympics – only 48 hours to recover and then another game comes up,” he explained.

“So we need to be extremely professional. Physical and mental recovery is key now, and then I’m probably going to have some really in-depth and tough discussions with my tech staff about how we line up the team on Wednesday, because there’s a lot of players that deserve to start that game.”

Clare Wheeler of the Matildas celebrates with team mates after scoring a goal during the AFC Women's Asian Olympic Qualifier match between Philippines and Australia Matildas at Optus Stadium on October 29, 2023 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Will Russell/Getty Images)

He provided an update on Cortnee Vine, saying that it was too early to make a call on her injury, but that it looked like a soft tissue hamstring complaint that would likely rule her out for Wednesday’s match.

Gustavsson also took the time to praise Amy Sayer, commenting that the senior CommBank Matildas squad could no longer be used for development, and that the u23 programme led by his assistant Mel Andreatta had done a fantastic job at bridging the gap for players like Sayer.

Finally, he gave some insight into what to expect against Chinese Taipei.

“I think you’re going to expect a mixed lineup, because I’m going to base that lineup on performance,” he said.

“We’re going to look at performance because players in form deserve to play and I think it’s important now that we have some competition for spots, and send some messages to players that performance has paid off.

“The problem is that I have more than ten starters now, because I have more than ten players that actually deserve to start. So that’s going to be the conversation – how are we going to start the game, how are we going to finish the game?”

Player of the match Caitlin Foord was up next, after scoring her third-ever international hat trick.

“It’s huge for us as a team,” she answered when asked about how the performance felt. “We knew goals were important today.”

She admitted that her favourite position is out wide on the left but she enjoyed her role in the ‘number 10’ spot today, a central attacking player alongside Sam Kerr.

For Foord, who debuted for the team in 2011, chemistry with her teammates is a big factor in her performance.

“Me and Sam have played together for years and the likes of Em[ily] van Egmond coming on as well, we’ve played just as long together so yeah, I guess it’s just natural for us,” she explained.

That also comes into play with club connections, with Foord linking up with Arsenal teammates Steph Catley and Kyra Cooney-Cross for the national team.

Finally, she explained the message from Gustavsson before the game.

“Before Tony came in, we said to him where we think we struggled as a team, and that was against playing against lower rank teams,” she said. “We just felt like we couldn’t step up.

“His message was relaying that and reminding us about that. Today was an opportunity to change that mindset of the team. We went out there and we did want to prove that and show that and we kind of have set a benchmark and a level of what Australia expects us to play at, and we have to live up to that now.”

Attention now turns to the next match against Chinese Taipei at HBF Park on Wednesday evening, 7pm local time (10pm AEDT). A win will guarantee CommBank Matildas passage into the final stage of Olympic qualification.

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This article was originally published on the CommBank Matildas website.