Tony Gustavsson is confident the Matildas are solely focused on Canada and not his job speculation. Image by Russell Freeman/AAP PHOTOS
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Gustavsson future speculation not distracting Matildas

Anna Harrington December 1, 2023

Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson is confident his players haven’t been distracted by speculation over his future and are firmly focused on taking on Canada.

Australia play the Olympic champions on Saturday and again on Wednesday (both times AEDT), less than two weeks after reports in Sweden linked Gustavsson to his home country’s vacant men’s head coach role.

Gustavsson, contracted until after the Olympics, again reiterated his commitment to ensuring qualification for Paris.

 Tony Gustavsson says his only focus is on the Matildas at next year’s Olympic Games in Paris. Image by Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS 

“The interest in this team is going to keep growing which means there’s always going to be speculation whether it’s about me or a player,” Gustavsson said in his pre-match press conference on Friday.

“What I want to be clear on though that’s important to me is that my sole focus is on the Matildas and making (them) 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 has spoken to his players about the reports.

“I actually have a very, very, very close relationship with the players in terms of talk about things that potentially could disturb our performance,” he said.

“One thing would be speculation about the coach’s future.

“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.'”

 Tony Gustavsson has been told by Chelsea that Sam Kerr’s injury is “hopefully not a long one”. Image by Darren England/AAP PHOTOS 

The Matildas will have to take care of business against the world No.10 without skipper Sam Kerr (foot) and first-choice goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold (arm).

Gustavsson said Chelsea had said Kerr’s injury was “hopefully not a long one” and stressed both club and country were focused on her welfare with important games ahead.

The Swede flagged testing out young players against Canada.

“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 matches will be the final international appearances for retiring Canada great and all-time leading goalscorer Christine Sinclair.

“Once the game starts, it’s two teams that really want to go at each other and make the most out of every single minute out there,” Gustavsson said.

“Because that’s the best way to honour her as well.”