The Matildas are back on home soil for the first time since March 2020 but with less than 100 days until the 2022 Asian Cup, their two friendlies against Brazil starting tonight in Parramatta will be underlined by a degree of urgency.
A fourth-placed finish at the Olympics was commendable, but their form apart from that has been poor; six friendlies without a win is an undesirable stretch, even if Tony Gustavsson has rolled 56 players through his squads in that period.
Gustavsson has been able to deflect criticism of those friendly results, the bulk of them played overnight Australian time. That won’t be as straightforward a task should the run extend into these fixtures.
“I think a result is really important. The Matildas are the sweetheart brand of Australian football, and Australia likes winners. They need to start winning, and doing so at home would be a really good way to move towards keeping public favour’, The ABC’s Steph Brantz told Box2Box.
‘What they are dealing with off the park shouldn’t affect how the players play on the park… the side has recorded no wins from six friendlies since Gustavvson has taken over, so I think we’re close to the time where they need to get some wins, just for their own confidence.’
Gustavsson this week stated the side ‘won’t try and win at expense of preparations’, sounding more than a little like Ange Postecloglou during his time as Socceroos boss on the path to the 2018 World Cup.
While Gustavsson deserves time to experiment himself, there is no denying he possesses a hardened crop of players who are accustomed to international football, with significantly less unknowns than the group at Postecoglou’s disposal.
‘We have very classy players, they’re not kids anymore, they should have high expectations. The combined squad has 1049 caps experience, so this is no team of newbies.’
‘What I think we need to see is a side that stops shipping goals. 30 goals in their past twelve, they’ve conceded…they’ve got an Asian cup in January, so it’s not long until Tony will have to settle on this squad and get them playing the way he wants them to play.’
Off field there remains a great deal to play out following Lisa De Vanna’s allegations of a historically ‘toxic culture’ among the group, a story that has undeniably impacted what would have been an otherwise joyous return home.
Football Australia CEO James Johnson met with the players this week off the back of their unified response to De Vanna’s statement in The Daily Mail, and the governing body have since indicated they’ll forward the case to Sport Integrity Australia.
‘It’s been desperately disturbing and I think there’s a lot of people quite relived we have action on the park to discuss this week.’
‘Putting in Sport Integrity Australia to handle the enquiry I think was a very smart move. It keeps it very much at arms length and keeps it truly independent. Whatever they disclose and find, then that will bring the right and proper way to deal with it.’