Gustavsson hails game-changing Matildas as Australia celebrates win


[1/2]Soccer Football – FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023 – Quarter Final – Australia v France – Brisbane Stadium , Brisbane, Australia – August 12, 2023 Australia players pose for a team group photo before the match REUTERS/Asanka Brendon Ratnayake

BRISBANE, Aug 13 – Coach Tony Gustavsson expects Australia’s run to the Women’s World Cup semi-finals to resonate far beyond the sport’s regular audience as the Matildas’ exploits dominated the nation’s media the morning after their penalty shoot-out win over France.

The tournament co-hosts booked their first-ever appearance in the last four with a 7-6 victory on penalties after a 0-0 draw with Herve Renard’s team in Brisbane on Saturday, triggering a bout of football fever across the country.

Record-breaking television and streaming figures plus blanket coverage on the front and back pages of the nation’s newspapers greeted the win, and Gustavsson believes his players can be the catalyst for change throughout Australian society.

“I genuinely really believe that this team can create history in so many ways, not just winning football games,” Gustavsson said.

“The way that they can inspire the next generation, how they can unite a nation or they can leave a legacy that is much bigger than 90 minutes of football. I think that is also why I believe in them so much.

“The why is so much bigger than just football and when that drives you…that is a powerful tool that can be very difficult to stop.

“I’ve sensed that from day one working with this team, the inner drive and the why is what gets them to where they are today.”

The Matildas have temporarily usurped Australia’s usual sporting diet of rugby league and AFL in the media and attention levels are only likely to increase as Gustavsson’s team face the country’s age-old rivals England in Wednesday’s semi-final.

Neither nation has ever advanced to a Women’s World Cup final and the 49-year-old Swede, who was appointed Australia coach almost three years ago, is relishing another winner-takes-all clash.

“Recovery is key,” he said. “What’s good is that we have continuity in what we’re doing. We have a clear playing style. We don’t need to train to be tactically prepared.

“It’s more about making sure we’re mentally and physically prepared for the semi-final coming up.

“But these players are on a mission. I know that they’re going to celebrate this one, but from tomorrow they’re going to be focused again, they’re extremely professional and they’re on the mission.

“We’ve shown that we thrive under pressure over and over and over again in this tournament and I think I have some unhealthy addiction to do-and-die games and these type of moments. I love it. It makes you feel alive.”

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