The Australia women’s football team, commonly known as the Matildas, will continue to be coached by Tony Gustavsson after an embarrassing AFC Asian Cup where they were eliminated in the quarter-finals by South Korea. They entered the tournament as the highest-ranked team and much was expected of them, but they failed to live up to the lofty expectations.
Gustavsson was summoned by Football Australia to explain the team’s poor and lackluster performance at the Asian Cup, and many critics expected his head to roll. He was spared the ignominy of being dismissed and was instead backed by the football board to continue with the four-phase plan it had for him when he was appointed. The four phases include the Tokyo Olympics, 2022 Women’s Asian Cup, 2023 World Cup and 2024 Paris Games.
Gustavsson’s first major assignment was the 2020 Olympic Games, where the Matildas shocked the football world by making the semi-finals. They eventually lost to Sweden in the semis, but Gustavsson had made his mark as a head coach.
Gustavsson has enjoyed a long and successful 21-year coaching career in both women’s and men’s football, playing a significant role in the 2015 and 2019 World Cup title-winning campaigns with the United States women’s national team. His success did not end there as he also helped the USA team win Olympic gold at London 2012. He was assistant coach on all three occasions and this job position was his first stint as head coach of a national team.
The Matildas had the hopes of a nation on their shoulders after their impressive showing at the Tokyo games, and this was a major setback for the fans and administrators alike. This result is all the more disappointing as the next World Cup is being hosted by Australia.
Gustavsson had the added pressure of seeing the Matildas’ former coach Alen Stajcic doing so well at the Asian Cup. Stajcic was axed in controversial circumstances four years ago but showed his excellent coaching ability by guiding the low-ranking Philippines to the semi-finals of the tournament.
One of the factors that contributed to Gustavsson keeping his job is the number of young players he has drafted into the team. However, he will need an urgent improvement of results or Football Australia may lose their patience with him.