Tony Gustavsson’s Matildas talked the talk but can’t walk the walk

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The Matildas entered the AFC Women’s Asian Cup as favourites to take home the silverware, but that dream has been crushed after being knocked out by Korea Republic in the quarter-final on Sunday.

That expectation came from an impressive Olympic’s campaign only months prior, however, Australia have now met an early elimination fate following their worst performance in an Asian Cup in 15 years.

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In most cases, you’d expect such an experienced side to be improving their performances, not the latter. And for a starting 11 who collectively have over a decade of experience; falling short in a tournament where you’re expected to clean out, shines a red flag that something just isn’t quite right.

The elimination has triggered questions as to the ability of coach Tony Gustavsson to lead this squad, particularly heading in the Women’s World Cup, and he has already made it clear where the blame should lie.

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“I take full ownership of the result tonight. I think criticising me is fair and to criticise me for things I could’ve done better,” Gustavsson said.

Since the Matildas have been under Gustavsson, the same problems continue to resurface. Firstly; the concern of depth in defence and midfield and secondly, the over reliance of Sam Kerr.

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While the Matildas had ample opportunities at goal, it was another game of being unable to capitalise on the majority of their chances.

Most of the attempts came from Kerr, who continuously found herself in between defenders and no-one working around to move them off their post.

“We had six clear chances on target that we could’ve scored on. Obviously, the conversion wasn’t there today,” Gustavsson said.

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“She always carries the team on her shoulders and knowing Sam now she’s going to try to take responsibility for this loss but it’s not her fault; it’s a team performance.”

Gustavsson said if anyone should be criticised it’s him, not Sam.

Gustavsson made it clear that the concerns of depth in defence and midfield should not be a worry. He reassured that playing players out of their usual positions, to compensate for the lack of unnamed listed players in the two problem areas, would be of service to them.

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Well, that proved not to have worked.

The Matildas went from competition favourites to knocked out before the semi-finals and that result is far below what the Matildas are capable of.

While Gustavsson has welcomed criticism, for someone who said he wanted to be “judged on performances” his coaching style has raised eyebrows across the nation, particularly considering the World Cup is only a year away.

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Ash Ramos
Journalism student at Curtin University covering Perth Glory for the 2021/22 A-leagues season. Siuuu

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