Tony Gustavsson has named a familiar squad to face New Zealand in the upcoming friendlies. The 22 of the 23 players that went to the Asian Cup will take the field in April, with one exciting inclusion.
Former Brisbane Roar playmaker and former AFC Player of The Year Katrina Gorry will make her return to the national team. Gorry last played as a Matilda in February of 2020 and has since taken time off to become a mother before returning in style to football and earning a move to Sweden with Vittsjö GIK.
Gorry scored four times and made seven assists for The Roar last season. Gustavsson was thrilled to have the creative wizard at his disposal after she was unavailable to travel for the Asian Cup.
“I would have loved to have her there,” he lamented.
“She would have been the perfect super-sub in that second half against Korea with her skillset.”
“She’s proven now, the first season that she’s back that shes good enough to be selected for the senior national team.
“Which makes me very happy, but its also very impressive to see how professional she’s been in terms of coming back to the game that quickly. “
With Brisbane’s season over before the finals, Gustavsson’s coaching staff took the opportunity to spend some time with Gorry. They familiarised her with the teams style, tactics and terminology to help her transition back into the squad.
“Her unique skillset is her agility with the ball,” said Gustavsson when asked what she would bring to the side.
“She can turn out of pressure like no-one else, then (there’s) her vision and her touch. The big step now is to bring her game up to international speed, that’s going to be the natural next step.”
Gorry’s ability to shoot from almost any range and unlock stubborn defenses with her passing would have no doubt helped in the unsuccessful quarter final. However, Gustavsson has used the time since Australia’s to carefully analyze the failed campaign.
Two separate external companies have been used to look at the statistics and performances. Lessons have been learned and will be put in place as the World Cup approaches.
“We were better in all the stats except one, which cost us.
“It’s a crucial reminder of how tournaments are won and lost, it’s the conversion of chances.
“Take the A-League final the other day, it’s a hard reminder that games and titles are won and lots inside the 18.”
Gustavsson detailed other aspects the team will look to address. Australia will endeavour to improve the quality of their attacks while being careful not to become exposed at the back. He identified that the team is what he described as a 5-5 formation, which was less than ideal.
“We worked on what kind of final passes do we want to play and where do we want to play it from in the Olympics we played too many passes from the wide areas, so the delivery of the cross is too long and statistically you don’t score as much in those type of crosses as you do from a cutback.
“We’re not compact enough as we defend and there’s some stats that show that we’re too spread apart, and we need to attack more as a unit.”
In addition to what happened on-field, Gustavsson and his team have reflected on the lead up to the tournament.
“There are a lot of areas we identified,” he said.
“One is the preparation, we felt we could have done a better job with the preparation.
“We had a lot of challenges not being able to schedule friendlies due to covid and where we had the pre-camp.
“When we played the first game of the tournament we had 14 players that hadn’t played one single minute in three and a half weeks.
“We definitely need to do everything we can from now on to make sure that window before the world cup is as good as possible when it comes to game minutes.”
This will be crucial for players in the A-League Women hoping to make the final squad for 2023. In the current squad only Cortnee Vine is not committed to a club overseas for the coming season.
Gustavsson was clear that nobody is off the national team radar, but playing at the highest level is important if they are to unlock their own potential and improve The Matildas.
“These players need to play more games, the season is too short, we know that.”
“We need to extend the season for these players. They deserve that, they deserve to play more games.”
“The players are good enough to get contracts abroad now. Their performances in the A-League has shown that teams are starting to scout the A-league more.
“They’ve seen that they’re good enough players but also phenomenal characters to have in the teams.”
“If they are stuck here now until the start of the next season what kind of development… are they going to be challenged to go to the next level, are they going to be challenged?”
One of the players that has never been afraid to challenge herself is Alex Chidiac. The former Athetico Madrid and JEF United Chiba player rediscovered her best form after leaving Japan for Melbourne Victory.
She has not been included in the 23 player squad. However Gustavsson was clear that she is in contention along with Sydney FC midfielder Mackenzie Hawkesby.
“I’m really happy for Chids that she’s found the love of the game again,” said Gustavsston
“She’s had a couple of tough years.
“We always know that she has a magical left foot. Her vision, her touch is unique but she needed to find her love for the game again and to find her form and her confidence.
“She has been selected previously and been up for selections, but for different reasons she has turned us down.
“It’s not that she’s not on the radar, she’s on the extended list for this camp.
“I also need to credit her and the club… they’ve done a phenomenal job.
“The next step now is to keep this form and play consistently at as high a level as possible, now the a-league is finished to find a platform where she keeps enjoying playing as playing as high as possible.
“No-one is off the radar. Everyone is available for selection all the way through to 2023.”
Although the World Cup is a year away, there are precious few opportunities for The Matildas to prepare as a team. That preparation begins on April 8th in Townsville where Australia will be eager to return to form against New Zealand.