Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson says he’s ‘not too happy’ about the focus on him amid speculation about his future and reiterated his commitment to qualifying his team for next year’s Olympics without confirming he’d be in Paris.
Speaking for the first time since being linked to the head coaching role of the Swedish men’s team, ahead of two year-ending clashes in Canada where a raft of new faces are set to get an opportunity, Gustavsson said he had spoken to his players about the reports.
As he tried to rebuff questioning about the issue, he was adamant their professionalism and ambition would ensure the speculation about his own future would not distract them from their goal.
Gustavsson, who is contracted to the Matildas until the Paris Games, was reported to be one of the three final candidates to fill the vacant role for a team that has slipped below the Socceroos on the FIFA world rankings.
Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson is not happy the talk is around him, not his team as they prepare to take on Canada
The Matildas shocked Canada during the FIFA Women’s World Cup and the Canadians will be looking for revenge at home this weekend
Gustavsson has been linked to a possible move to become the Swedish men’s national team coach in 2024
Several players in recent days have declared the ‘noise’ around Gustavsson wouldn’t impact them, and without declaring where his future lay beyond Paris, the Matildas boss said they were all aware such speculation was part of the business of the world game.
Gustavsson also didn’t commit to being in charge beyond February’s Olympic play-off with Uzbekistan.
‘That’s part of the business, especially when you have players or coaches whose contract runs out within a 12-month period,’ Gustavsson said.
‘There’s always going to be speculation (about) what’s next? Whether there is a dialogue with the Australian FA about an extension or whether he is going to move on to this one or this job.
‘I need to credit all of you (media) for all the job that you do and especially with the interest in this team, it’s just going to keep the interest in this team growing, which means there’s always going to be speculation whether it’s about me or a player.
‘What I want to be clear on here though, what’s important to me is that my sole focus is on the Matildas and can they qualify for the Olympics – and we have unfinished business with this team.
‘And I’ve said that from day one, and I know that there’s always going to be people that interpret that quote differently and speculate about this.
‘But the one thing that I want to be very, very clear on is that I am extremely passionate working with this team. I love this team.’
Gustavsson said he had a ‘very, very, very close relationship with the players’ and made sure to address the reports with them, conscious of getting on top of anything that could ‘disturb our performance’.
‘One thing would be speculation about the coach’s future,’ he said.
‘We’re always open about everything and what I really love with this team is the professionalism.
‘They say ‘it’s part of the business. Let’s move on, let’s get prepared for the Olympics’. This is about the next training and the next game and that’s what we’re focused on.
‘One of the key reasons why we perform so well in the World Cup is that as a team, they are extremely connected to each other about everything and we look in and not out. The players and me are focusing 100% of the Olympics.
‘The one thing that maybe I’m not liking is that this is about the players, it’s not about Tony, and I’m not too happy about the attention being directed towards me as much as it is.’
Losing Gustavsson would be a major blow for the Matildas after his efforts in elevating them into a world force
The Australian coach is contracted to lead the Matildas until the end of the Paris Olympics but is not contracted beyond that point
Without a host of injured players, including captain Sam Kerr, who was ruled out with a foot injury, and No.1 goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold, Gustavsson said the two clashes with the Olympic champions could help expose more players to international football and strengthen his squad’s depth.
‘You’re gonna see a lot of new faces in this first game. We really need to take this opportunity and be brave enough to do it,’ he said.
‘We’re in a process now where we need to test players to see who can earn a spot in the Olympic roster but also test things and what we’re doing now in terms of developing our playing style.
‘To do that against a top-ranked team away is a perfect opportunity for us and I don’t want to miss that window.’
The Matildas will play the first game on Saturday afternoon before a second clash in Vancouver on December 5.
Canada v Matildas
Date: Friday, 1 December 2023 (local) / Saturday, 2 December (AEDT)
Kick-off: 7.30pm PST (local) / 2.30pm (AEDT)
Venue: Starlight Stadium, Langford
Date: Tuesday, 5 December 2023 (local) / Wednesday, 6 December (AEDT)
Kick-off: 7.00pm PST (local) / 2.00pm (AEDT)
Venue: BC Place, Vancouver
Post source: Daily mail