‘We’re in the process now’: Matildas coach turns to stars for second Canada game, defends blooding young players


Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson will turn to his best available line-up for Australia’s second friendly against Canada but remains adamant his younger players learned crucial lessons from their 5-0 loss in the first game.

Gustavsson fielded six players with fewer than 20 caps in Langford on Saturday (AEDT), with the experimental line-up put to the sword by a slick Canada.

It was a pre-planned decision to field an inexperienced line-up first, and a strong team second in Australia’s final games before February’s Olympic qualifiers against Uzbekistan. 

Tony Gustavsson. (Photo by Richard Callis/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images)

Gustavsson stressed several senior players didn’t play or had limited minutes in the first game in order to manage their workloads amid hectic club schedules.

He accepted criticism for throwing young players in the deep end but stood by his selections.

“They were extremely professional in this last game to go all in and try things,” he said. 

“It was a credit to the experienced players and my support staff to create a safe space for these young players to be out there and play.  

“Some people probably go, ‘Hey, is this fair to the players to give them this type of experience?’. 

“They love it. This is what they want. They want to play against top teams. They want to learn. 

“As long as I make sure I create a safe space for them to get this experience, it’s what they need. 

“Then I wanted to balance that with the opportunity to have some continuity as well in a line-up.

“Because this might be the only camp before the Olympics when we can play a top-ranked nation. It’s difficult scheduling now with all the teams being locked in to schedules all the way up.

“I wanted to really try young players against a top team but also get some continuity and consistency.”

Sam Kerr and Mackenzie Arnold are injured, while Caitlin Foord, Steph Catley, Ellie Carpenter and Clare Hunt didn’t feature in the first game against Canada.

The latter quartet, plus Mary Fowler, Kyra Cooney-Cross, Alanna Kennedy and Hayley Raso, all appear likely to start on Wednesday (AEDT).

Katrina Gorry missed training through illness but is also in the mix.

Australia coughed up three goals on Saturday by being dispossessed in their own half but Gustavsson is determined the side will keep building from the back.

“We’ve struggled (in the past) a little bit to play through lines,” he said. 

“Which means come Olympics, we don’t want to be as predictable in our attack and I want to improve playing through.

“We might do some mistakes tomorrow as well, and maybe they’ll cost us a goal or two, but we’re in the process now where we really, really want to work on this to take the team to the next level.”

The Matildas struggled with the wet artificial turf at Starlight Stadium.

But Gustavsson stressed the “technical quality” of the artificial surface at Vancouver’s BC Place – renamed Christine Sinclair Place to commemorate the retiring Canada great in her final game – was good.

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