Show me what you’ve got: Gustavsson eagerly anticipating chance to observe A-League Women season in person

Getting a sneak peek during the Matildas’ two-game series against Brazil, coach Tony Gustavsson is looking forward to getting a chance to spend an extended time Down Under — and get a firsthand look at the talent assembled in the A-League Women competition — in coming months.

Due to the combination of Australia’s mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine requirements and the vast majority of his team now being based in Europe, the Matildas’ ongoing series against the Seleção marks the first time 48-year-old Gustavsson has been in Australia since he ascended to his current role at the beginning of 2021.

However, due to the special quarantine arrangements agreed between Football Australia and government authorities to allow the games to go ahead — players and staff effectively restricted to their hotel rooms unless on official team business — his opportunities to observe his Sydney surroundings have to this point largely been restricted to gazing out the bus window on the journey to and from CommBank Stadium.

But, in a welcome development for players getting set to compete in the coming A-League Women season, the arms-length between the Swede and his adopted home seems set to change soon.

See Also: Gustavsson seeking to balance fresh faces with finding consistency

Though not yet formally announced, the Matildas are likely to be returning to Sydney next month for potential revenge fixtures against the side that defeated them in the Bronze Medal match at the Tokyo Olympics and reigning world champions the United States.

And while Gustavsson is set to return to Europe ahead of those fixtures, he told journalists on Monday that, with Australia increasingly opening up as vaccination rates continued to rise, he was anticipating spending an extended period down under in those game’s aftermath.

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“My plans have been, since day one, that as soon as I can get into Australia and as soon as this quarantine rules ease up and I can get some exposure to local football; I want to be here watching football,” he said.

“I want to meet the club coaches, I want to meet the players but also I want to meet the Football Australia staff — I haven’t even been in the office yet!

“I want to meet [media] personally, I want to meet all the stakeholders, the sponsors — not to mention all the fans! I can’t wait to come here and stay here.

Kyra Cooney-Cross (left) will play for Melbourne Victory in the coming A-League Women season
Image Credit: Football Australia

“What my schedule looks like right now is that post this camp I’ll go and scout some key club games in Europe and some Champions League games and prep for that camp coming up in November in Australia.

“And post that Australia camp in November, I’ll stay here to make sure I can meet as many people as possible in as short a time as possible. Because at that time the A-League Women’s will be up and running as well so clubs will have their training and games.”

The news that Gustavsson will be remaining in Australia for at least the start of the coming domestic campaign will serve as welcome news for Australian-based players eager to take advantage of his emphatic efforts to increase the Matildas’ depth.

Football Australia did previously stage a Talent ID camp for locally-based hopefuls such as Melina Ayres, Matilda McNamara, and Clare Wheeler in the lead-up to the Tokyo Olympics — but that was conducted under the charge of assistant coach Melissa Andreatta. Remaining in Europe, Gustavsson was restricted to observing proceedings via remote cameras and beaming into meetings — Zordon style — via zoom.

Seven members of his 23-player squad assembled in Sydney for the Brazil series are currently contracted for the coming ‘Dub’ season: Brisbane Roar’s Jamilla Rankin, Western Sydney Wanderers’ Bryleeh Henry, Melbourne City’s Emma Checker, Melbourne Victory’s Kyrah Cooney-Cross and Courtney Nevin, and Sydney FC’s Remy Siemsen and Jada Whyman.

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Whyman was added to the squad on Sunday as an injury replacement for Teagan Micah, who suffered an injury in the pre-match warm-up of the 3-1 win over Brazil on Saturday.

See Also: Jacob Italiano and Lachlan Brook highlight Olyroos squad for AFC U23 Asian Cup qualification

“I’m very excited to come into the squad, and I got the call on my birthday so it was a cool birthday present for me yesterday,” she said.

“It’s been cool to see a lot of the girls again and I want to make sure I can support the team as best as I can coming in at this point.”

Jada Whyman was called into the Matildas’ squad as an injury replacement for Tegan Micah on Sunday.
Image Credit: Football Australia

The goalkeeper will almost certainly serve as a bench option for Tuesday’s follow-up fixture against Brazil, a contest in which Gustavsson has said fans can expect some fresh faces to come in, but not wholesale changes.

“You’re probably going to see a game tomorrow where it’s a balance of consistency and cohesion but also making sure we’re vetting some players,” he said.

“Brazil rotated a lot of players in that first game, they’re rebuilding. Were there some good things in our performance? Yes. But I also think there were some areas where we were vulnerable. We got dispossessed in some bad areas and their transition game could really hurt us.

“We could have copped a few goals there, we’ll look into that. I want to see a team now that can step on the park and show that we can deliver a performance back to back — play with the same intensity, with the same energy and commitment and mindset.

“It’s also a game where I don’t want to just say ‘we got that win, ease up, a little bit of rotation’ and all of a sudden the game becomes something different. This is an important game for our rebuilding and I want to see that mindset. It’s really important.”

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Image Credit: Football Australia

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