Australia suffered double heartbreak, losing semi-final and bronze medal match
Rapid growth under new coach Tony Gustavsson a positive for Women’s World Cup hosts
Gustavsson: “We have laid down a platform for the future.”
It was a tournament of milestones for Australia at Tokyo 2020. A maiden semi-final appearance at the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament, record TV viewership in Australia and, typically, Sam Kerr surpassing yet another goalscoring landmark. The Aussies, though, were inconsolable at fulltime of their 4-3 bronze medal match defeat to USA on Thursday. Down 3-1 at half-time, the Matildas showed trademark spirit to set up a thrilling finale and push the world champions until the final whistle. The loss represented double heartbreak for Australia after a narrow semi-final defeat against Sweden had denied them an opportunity to go for gold. But having reached their first semi-final at a global tournament, the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ co-hosts have built a platform for success when the world heads Down Under in 2023.
Remarkably, the team have been under the direction of new coach Tony Gustavsson for just two months. It is hard to believe that the same side which conceded ten goals in the opening two matches of the Swede’s tenure has, in the past fortnight, knocked out Great Britain and pushed Sweden and USA to the brink. “We are proud to get this far, but we are not satisfied with that - we wanted to take a medal home,” Kyah Simon told FIFA.com. “Another two years together will do us good, given we have only been together under Tony for about seven weeks, so we are really proud of what we have been able to do in that time. “It is exciting for the future and what the next two years brings and what level of football we will be playing. We have come a long way, tactically as a team, our cohesion, understanding Tony’s philosophy and the game plan. It is really pleasing for the future.”
Australia’s post-match mood said about a lot about their heightened expectations. “I wouldn’t call the tournament a success, we came here for a medal,” said tireless fullback Steph Catley. “But we have gained a lot and come a long long way from where we were. We have semi-final experience which we have never had before so that is a gain. “Coming so close to a medal is completely heartbreaking. Playing against the top teams in the world and outplaying them at times. It feels like it was right there and has been snatched from us, so it is definitely tough to take right now. “From where we have come in the past two months or so, starting from scratch basically with Tony coming in, I think the heart we showed in the tournament and the way we played for each other was great. By the time we got to these last few games we were completely on same page and playing the kind of football that we know we can play. “If this is what we are capable of within just a couple of months together, then I can’t wait to see what we can do in other major tournaments.”
Gustavsson hailed his players strength of character but said his side should use the pain of defeat as a tool. “Credit to the players, I thought we looked stronger in the last 30 minutes and that is credit to them and their mental toughness,” he said. “I said to the players that I hope we never forget this feeling after this loss because we never want to have that feeling again. We need to use that as fuel to work even harder, so that come the World Cup in 2023 we have the feeling we had after (beating) GB. “I am extremely proud of these girls, the way they have fought, the never-say-die attitude, the football that we have showcased. We have laid down a platform for the future.”