Following the Matildas’ 3-1 victory over Brazil at CommBank Stadium on Saturday night, head coach Tony Gustavsson believes that depth will play a large role in how the national will perform at the World Cup next year.
Since being appointed the role of Matildas head coach last year, Gustavsson has called up plenty of debutants to the senior side.
Having retained Clare Wheeler, Charli Grant and Angie Beard, Jamilla Rankin and Remy Siemsen, all of whom got their first call ups in the most recent camp against Ireland in Dublin, Western Sydney Wanderers teenager Bryleeh Henry made her first appearance against Brazil, making a cameo appearances off the bench in stoppage time.
Gustavsson has defended his stance on giving as many players senior international experience as possible despite risking pushing more experienced players out.
The Matildas manager says that squad rotation will be a key element to success for the Women’s World Cup hosts next year.
“In order to win something in a tournament you need to be able to one – rotate throughout the tournament but also two – you need to have that cover if you get injuries and suspensions, so we also need to make sure that we bridge that gap,” Gustavsson told the media on Monday.
“And you’ve seen this year we’ve tried to balance it in a way where we could perform at the Olympics but at the same time bring a lot of new players in a training environment [and] also getting them on the park.
“Also I think I have to say I’m really appreciative of the leadership group in here as well, and their understanding of what this team needs and where it needs to be.”
Gustavvson noted that he is particularly concerned on the depth of defensive players in his side squad, saying it’s been an issue for the Matildas dating even before his time as coach.
“I’ve been honest about that [depth of squad] since day one, even when I announced the Olympic roster I said I had to leave some really good attacking players outside of that roster who deserved to be in that Olympic roster,” he said.
“We have tons and I mean tons of depth in the attacking midfield and forward positions, but we have and even before I arrived if you look at the gap report, lack depth in defensive positions – defensive midfield and back line positions.”
On the weekend the Matildas played their first game in front of fans in 18 months, Gustavvson says he and the players alike were elated with the crowd, saying that enjoyed playing in front of a lively audience.
“I was extremely impressed about the atmosphere in the stadium, even outside of the stadium when the bus was driving in,” he said.
“We felt it, we felt the vibe, actually some of the girls said [when] we were speaking this morning players were saying that it felt like a tournament game, like that real tournament mode and that’s a teaspoon taste of what’s coming in World Cup 23.
“And I think everyone in that stadium created that atmosphere of a real proper amazing football game, so for me it was amazing and honestly I love that type of environment and even the players did as well, they thrive under that environment and play good football.”
“I think most like [national teams] what they’ve done, there was a lot of travel, jet lag and such, they’ve [coaches] probably eased both her and Debinha into training to protect them a little bit,” he said.
In the two goal defeat to the Matildas, Brazil would not start its superstars Marta and Debinha, with the two coming on to play the final half an hour of the game.
Though Gustavvson says he’s expecting both to be starting in tomorrow’s clash, saying he wants to play the strongest team possible.
“I also know they’re in a stage where they’re experimenting a little bit and rebuilding with young players, so I would be surprised if not both Marta and Debinha don’t start in this next game.
“And honestly I hope they do [start] because these games you want to play the best teams possible, the best players possible, to make sure we get exposed to quality players.”
Gustavsson also singled out Emily van Egmond, saying he was pleased with her cameo appearance coming off the bench Saturday night as she scored the third goal, sealing the victory.
Despite a lack of training with her club NSWL side Orlando Pride following the Olympics, Gustavsson said she was still impressive.
“First of all it’s impressive that she comes in and performs that way, she’s not been training at club [level] for a long time after Olympics,” he said.
“I know she’s been training and training hard, but it’s a different thing to be training individually than training with [a] club, so that’s one big reason why she started on the bench.
“She had some good training with us, but then coming in that second half and not just getting that goal but that assist as well.
“It’s interesting as well now, we changed to 4-3-3 and put her a little higher up the park as that eight-ten so she can float in between that area of the opponents midfield and back line and have those late runs into the box where we’ve seen her score before.
“I guess it’s a big habit of hers to score late goals in that goal in that stadium, [referring back] thinking about that goal against China as well.”
The Matildas take on Brazil on Tuesday the 25th of November at 7:50pm AEST at CommBank Stadium.