The Matildas have failed to score for the second straight game against Canada as Tony Gustavsson's tactics come under fire. The fragility in defence along with the lack of attacking threat has led many to question if the Matildas coach is the right person to lead the side moving forward.
After going down 5-0 in the first friendly match against Canada, Gustavsson brought a large number of Matildas regulars straight into the starting lineup. He made a whopping 10 changes to his team with the side's best players bar the injured Sam Kerr and Mackenzie Arnold all featuring in the second game. Yet the Matildas still failed to find the back of the net, losing 1-0.
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Gustavsson’s desire for his side to adopt a possession-based playing style to give them more versatility ahead of next year’s Olympics faltered, with the Canadian side put under very little pressure. The performance was described by Channel 10's Andy Harper as "anaemic" while captain Steph Catley said changing the style of play can take a while to gel.
"It was an interesting one... we’re trying a few different things, a few different ways of playing," she said. "Sometimes that has growing pains. There’s definitely positives to take out of the game but in the end, a set piece cost us and that's not good enough for us as a team."
The Matildas side looked exhausted but despite that Tameka Yallop was the only second-half substitute. Gustavsson’s lack of substitutions was a key takeaway from the World Cup semi-final loss with no coach at the tournament using their substitutes less than Gustavsson, whose bench averaged a mere 12 minutes per match. Social media users were very critical of the Matildas coach's in-game tactics against Canada, suggesting he should have turned to the bench earlier when things clearly weren't working.
I think we simultaneously learnt not a lot at all and also a great deal about the Matildas over the course of two games. Two pretty grim watches against quality opposition. The lack of subs in a game they were clearly gassed in...now where have we seen that before? #CANvAUS
— Ben Smith (@BenSmith94) December 6, 2023
Only a friendly, but that was absolutely disgraceful. Disgusting performance.
— G - S (@Zvezdh) December 6, 2023
i have a lot of respect for tony and where he’s taken the matildas but this is such a clear weak spot in his game management… even if it’s overblown by some of the worst people on this website
— anya (@woso_anya164) December 6, 2023
— Andrew (@CFCAndy__) December 6, 2023
He says they're trying new things but it's the same formation and same lineup. No new subs to change up play.
Maybe it's alanna striker era which is the new thing.#Matildas
— 魚魚魚 (@kamiwoos) December 6, 2023
The sooner he goes to coach Sweden the better. Just go. No ideas, no creativity, no clue of how to give players experience at the highest level of the women's game. How can @FootballAUS allow him to get away with this? He's riding on leftover emotion of the World Cup. #Matildas
— $!m0n (@SimonChronicles) December 6, 2023
jesus christ this quality is awful, praying they don’t score a goal while it’s like this… #Matildas
— gemma 🦷 (@GemmaIsobel) December 6, 2023
Gustavsson determined to play more attractive style of football
In the first clash, Canada capitalised on several poor errors from the Matildas with three goals coming from players losing the ball in their own half. In the second encounter, the Matildas only conceded once but looked shaky at the back and were fortunate that Canada lacked some composure in front of goal.
Prior to the game, Gustavsson said his focus was on the Matildas adding to their attacking arsenal so they aren't so predictable come the Olympics. "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 will face Uzbekistan in February in the final Olympic qualifier with the winner securing a spot at the Paris Games.
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