Aus coach focused on funding, not USWNT links

BRISBANE, Australia — Still reeling from his side’s loss to Sweden in their Women’s World Cup third-place playoff, Australia head coach Tony Gustavsson has demanded greater investment from Football Australia amidst links to the vacant United States job.

Australia’s fairytale World Cup came to a disappointing end on Saturday evening, outmuscled and outplayed by Sweden at Brisbane Stadium in their third-place playoff just days after falling 3-1 to England in the semifinal.

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Though his tactics and hesitation to rotate his squad and use substitutes have raised numerous eyebrows throughout this tournament, Gustavsson has nonetheless guided Australia to a new high watermark finish at a World Cup, two years on from leading the team to the final four at the Tokyo Olympics.

A two-time World Cup winner as an assistant under Jill Ellis with the USWNT, it’s a record in his first international head coaching role that has seen Gustavsson repeatedly raised as a possible candidate for the role left vacant by Vlatko Andonovski’s resignation earlier this week.

Gustavsson’s former boss Ellis told ESPN that the 50-year-old “should definitely be a strong candidate for the job.”

Currently under contract with Football Australia until the end of Australia’s 2024 Olympics campaign — the qualifying portion of which will begin in two months — Gustavsson had previously waved off questions about potential interest from U.S. Soccer ahead of the Sweden game but, when asked again in its aftermath, declared things needed to change.

“What I can say is I love working with this team,” said Gustavsson. “It resonates with me as a coach; their identity and their why.

“I don’t see this as an end of a journey. I see it as the beginning of a journey.

“But I also want to be very clear that I want to see investment now. I really do. I want to see investment and I mean like real investment that we’re serious about what we do.”

Setting ratings and attendance records while uniting the nation behind the team in a manner hitherto unprecedented, the impact of the Matildas’ run to the final four across the past month has the potential to forever alter Australian football.

However, the team’s struggles to function in possession when denied the chance to transition — often reverting to long and high balls forward for lack of other ideas when denied the counter — has been a consistent bugbear under Gustavsson’s tenure.

It has led to a situation wherein the coach is seemingly in demand in the United States but a figure of ongoing contention and debate over his coaching virtues in Australia.

“First of all, we know how this business works and the loss today is probably going to influence some people’s opinions about me as a coach,” Gustavsson said. “It’s how it works and it’s fair.

“Football Australia is keen on making an in-depth review after each tournament, like they did after the Olympics, after the Asian Cup. That will be made now as well.

“And in that review, I think we’re going to learn a lot about me as a coach, about the team, about preparation, and about investment.”

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