Mary Fowler
Football Australia want to host the 2026 Women's Asian Cup which will feature stars like Mary Fowler Image by Richard Wainwright/AAP PHOTOS
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Coach demands more Matildas goals to mark Olympic spot

Anna Harrington February 25, 2024

The Matildas’ berth at the Paris Olympics is all but sealed – but coach Tony Gustavsson is demanding more ruthlessness in the second leg of Australia’s qualifier against Uzbekistan.

A late scoring blitz, with Michelle Heyman, Mary Fowler and Caitlin Foord finding the back of the net, delivered a 3-0 win in Tashkent and a huge lead ahead of Wednesday night’s clash in Melbourne.

But the Matildas were wasteful before Heyman broke through in the 72nd minute and finished Saturday night’s game with eight out of 26 shots on target, but still just three goals to show for their dominance.

“We didn’t panic and get frustrated from not scoring in the first half,” Gustavsson said.

“But we left way too many goals on the table. Our conversion rate must have been really bad. We could have scored, we left a lot of goals out there.

“That needs to be better on Wednesday.”

Fowler added: “Probably some of it was to do with the lack of concentration at times. 

“People get a bit frustrated and that all points back to having patience. It was good for us to be able to turn that around and get goals in the second half. 

“But even for myself, looking back at some of those chances in the first half, it’s just millimetres off and it’s a goal or it’s a better chance.”

Gustavsson stressed scoring three goals, combined with sealing a clean sheet, had just given his charges freedom to kick up a gear in Melbourne.

“We actually spoke about that going into this game that this is the first half of two,” he said.

“A lot of players have experienced playing Champions League when it’s the same thing when you play home and away and it’s a two-leg series, and you need to play that a bit different. 

“So we said ‘let’s have a very, very focused, mature performance where we don’t give anything away in terms of the defending, focus and discipline, keep a clean sheet again.

Gustavsson
 Coach Tony Gustavsson is demanding a more clinical edge from the Matildas. Image by Richard Wainwright/AAP PHOTOS 

“Then as a bonus, if we get some goals, we can come home in Australia, gear up and attack even more.’

“We’re being carried by the fans in the stands there and get the energy we get every time we play on home soil.”

Australia were due to head directly to Dubai after the match, then share a flight with their Uzbek opponents to Melbourne.

“It’s going to be amazing. I’ve already pictured the atmosphere in that stadium and what it’s going to be like and I think the players are going to thrive under that a lot,” Gustavsson said.

After experiencing near-freezing conditions in Tashkent, both teams could deal with temperatures up to 36 degrees in Melbourne on Wednesday.

“I definitely prefer this,” Fowler said, adding with a laugh: “I’m a lot more acclimatised to the cold now so I might die in Australia, actually!”