Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson has refused to completely shut down links to the Swedish head coach role, despite reiterating his desire to take the team to the Olympics. Last week, Sportbladet journalist Daniel Kristoffersson reported Gustavsson met with the Swedish Football Association on "at least one occasion" and that a follow-up meeting has also been organised to discuss the vacant role.
The report states the new manager will either be Gustavsson, BK Hacken boss Per-Mathias Høgmo or IF Elfsborg manager Jimmy Thelin. Sweden have been sliding down the FIFA world rankings and a change is needed.
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Gustavsson was an integral role to the Matildas' historic run to the World Cup semi-final earlier this year. The Matildas broke records in Australia on their way to a fourth place finish. And Gustavsson has attempted to allay any fears on a move away from the Matildas before the Olympics.
However, he didn't completely rule out the links as he questioned the media. "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 admitted he is very close to the Matildas squad and opted to speak to the players about the reports as they seek Olympic qualification for Paris. "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 added.
"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.'"
Matildas to blood new players against Canada
Sam Kerr won't be available for the friendly against Canada, which will also see first-choice goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold miss the game because of an arm injury. Gustavsson was hoping Kerr would be back soon, but admitted it was a good opportunity to throw some new players in against the World No.10 side.
"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."
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