After guiding Australia to their greatest Women’s World Cup end, following from their greatest Olympics lead to Tokyo in 2021, there’s little doubt that Tony Gustavsson sat able of energy as he declared his affection for the Matildas deep within the depths of Lang Park after defeat by Sweden of their World Cup third-place playoff.
“What I can say is I love working with this team,” he mentioned. “It resonates with me as a coach; their identity and their why. I don’t see this as an end of a journey. I see it as the beginning of a journey. But I also want to be very clear that I want to see investment now. I really do. I want to see investment, and I mean real investment that we’re serious about what we do.”
It’s not sophisticated. The Matildas have reached the ultimate 4 of each the World Cup and Olympic Games beneath Gustavsson. They’ve turn into public and business darlings, setting attendance and rankings data because the nation rallied round them on a scale that defied all rhyme and motive. Even if his technical fame is in dispute among the many footballing group, his success and affable nature imply he is a well-liked determine. Gustavsson legitimately scores extremely on the Good Bloke Index™, which is more and more most popular by decision-makers relating to the coaches they appoint.
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Add to this the calamitous circumstances that befell the likes of Brazil, Germany and the United States all through the match, and the blessed stability Australian soccer has had since he arrived, in contrast with the catastrophe that was the dealing with of Alen Stajcic’s sacking and lack of planning related to Ante Milicic’s stop-gap appointment and subsequent stand down throughout COVID, and Football Australia has much more motive to not rock the boat.
Admittedly, as is the case after each main match and worldwide window, the federation will evaluate the nationwide staff’s efficiency within the weeks forward. But a precedent has been set on that entrance. Earlier this yr, Football Australia gave out-of-contract Socceroos boss Graham Arnold a wealthy new deal that additionally supplied important sway over the way forward for Australia’s males’s packages. They did this with out chatting with every other candidates, only a month on from the tip of the Socceroos’ spectacular run to the spherical of 16 in Qatar. It did not matter that the federation itself had beforehand leaked in opposition to Arnold, flagging that he was one the verge of dropping his job lower than a yr prior. By no matter means, he had acquired outcomes. He had received on the World Cup.
Besides, the Matildas’ success means the pool of potential candidates for the position ought to Gustavsson depart is small. After their explosion in reputation, and the failure of Vlatko Andonovski with the USWNT, it is tough to see how Football Australia may rent a home candidate with no worldwide teaching expertise for a staff of this profile and ambition. The most definitely situation is that Gustavsson stays no less than to the tip of his contract after the 2024 Paris Olympics and that Football Australia seems to increase it if/when qualification for Paris arrives. Further funding and sources for the ladies’s program, senior and junior, will even probably come.
So if there’s to be any life like motive as to why Gustavsson won’t be the one to steer the Matildas, it will be the Swede making the decision himself.
A two-time World Cup-winning assistant with the USWNT, Gustavsson has been linked with the now-vacant head teaching place left by Andonovski’s resignation — probably the most prestigious, and one of many better-remunerated, jobs in girls’s soccer. It is debatable if the USWNT could be nicely served by going again to the long run at a time of ostensible renewal, however Gustavsson’s former boss, Jill Ellis, has praised him, as one would count on, declaring that he “should definitely be a strong candidate for the job.” Former USWNT mainstay Tobin Heath, in the meantime, recognized the Swede as a possible candidate on the RE-CAP present, saying he was each a frontrunner and a instructor.
Lawson: Lasting legacy will give Matildas tangible World Cup prize
Sophie Lawson reacts to Australia’s 2-0 defeat to Sweden within the third-place playoff sport on the Women’s World Cup.
Elsewhere, the cash flooding into the ladies’s home sport the world over is exploding — the newest Bay Area growth franchise within the NWSL paid a reported $US53 million growth charge — and there are probably a couple of golf equipment that would not thoughts appointing Gustavsson, who beforehand led Tyresö to a Champions League closing.
On an much more base stage, it is tough to determine the way it can ever get higher for Gustavsson than proper now: The Matildas won’t ever be extra beloved, extra watched, or extra inspirational, than at this second. The coach might have more and more begun to notice the contrasting opinions surrounding his performances throughout press conferences, however he has at all times benefited from largely pleasant protection — particularly when put next with somebody like Arnold. He may realise it may legitimately be all downhill from right here. Which, actually, is truthful sufficient.
Optimistically, his reply on returning being couched in qualifiers that issues needed to change, and extra funding, particularly within the long-term, was a heartfelt plea from somebody invested in the long term. Cynically, it is laying the muse for an exit pinned on a scarcity of backing and assist from the federation. It was a press release that did increase some eyebrows, open sufficient for hypothesis to happen.
Of course, when you’re a brand new follower of the Matildas, caught up within the pleasure of the World Cup and keen for extra, that that is even a dialog could seem incredulous. Of course he is coming again. The Matildas got here fourth! In the planet’s largest sport!
But as a newly christened “football country,” debating the deserves of every thing post-tournament is necessary. In soccer, particularly worldwide soccer, inertia is demise; groups should evolve and enhance continually to stay aggressive. In the quickly evolving girls’s sport, that is heightened. Players should be moved on, and others introduced by means of, built-in and used most successfully. Tactics and approaches should not simply be match for goal however replicate the expertise and spirit of its nation — nationwide groups are imagined to be the idealised imaginative and prescient of a whole nation’s footballing efforts.
And what was notable on the World Cup was that, from a soccer perspective, there was little or no distinction in the way in which the Matildas tried to play, whatever the prevailing state of the sport. At a base stage, the circumstances that allowed this staff to thrive had been the identical as those that precipitated them to wrestle, with far much less of the adaptability or efficient pragmatism displayed by the match’s greatest groups reminiscent of England and Spain. The staff, significantly in defence, has grown beneath Gustavsson since he arrived (boosted by the late addition of assistant Jens Fjellström) but it surely stays a quick, bodily, transition-based outfit that does not perform nicely because the ball-dominant aspect. The first intuition when the plan is not working seems merely to be: Do it higher; and if that does not work, it is most of the time lengthy balls ahead within the route of Sam Kerr, with an added sprint of hope. There have been indicators of extra, however they had been solely fleeting, teasingly so, as a result of the gamers are succesful.
But this World Cup has proven that “underdog” nations, reminiscent of these more and more present in Asia, are attaining the required stage of teaching, physicality and organisation to frustrate opponents — for which a number of of soccer’s outdated guard had been unprepared. The Matildas’ travails in breaking down embedded defences that denied them transition wants addressing. The Republic of Ireland and Nigeria video games, particularly, bear that out. Further, the staff scored simply as soon as of their closing three video games of the match, and that purpose, Kerr’s screamer in opposition to England, shouldn’t be simply replicable. Against the perfect groups on the planet, with the perfect coaches and gamers, Australia struggled in aggressive fixtures (versus friendlies) to search out a solution to those groups’ potential to take a punch and adapt.
Can Gustavsson evolve his strategy to counter this? To discover a method to beat Spain, England and Sweden? To reply to a resurgent Japan and what’s going to in all probability be a resurgent USWNT? France, Germany, and Brazil will all probably rebound, too, whereas Colombia stand on the vanguard of a brand new wave of challengers. Can he do that whereas making the exhausting calls on bringing in contemporary expertise on the expense a swathe of beloved veterans within the Matildas squad? Can he be the dangerous man?
That’s the next step of being a “football nation” and saying “I told you so” — discovering a method to win the World Cup.
Gustavsson, in all chance, will probably be again. The nation will probably be behind him. But the bar has been set larger than ever earlier than, and it must be met.