Tony Gustavsson's bold Olympic Games call amid sad admission about Matildas future

Gustavsson believes the Matildas can bring home an Olympic medal.

On the back of a win over China in their final tune-up match ahead of the Olympic Games, Tony Gustavsson says he is confident the Matildas can bring home a medal from Paris. The Matildas coach unveiled the 18-player squad he will take to France on Tuesday with five players from the 23-player squad that defeated China 2-0 in their friendly match on Monday missing out on a spot.

Matildas captain Sam Kerr was previously ruled out of Paris after she tore her anterior cruciate ligament. But Gustavsson has taken an injury gamble on Caitlin Foord (hamstring) and midfield ace Katrina Gorry (ankle) who are still on the road to recovery from serious injuries. Fellow attackers Amy Sawyer, Holly McNamara, Kyah Simon and Chloe Lorgazo all missed out as expected with ACL injuries.

Charlotte Grant is the highest-profile not-injured Matildas regular to miss the cut for Paris, failing to make the 18-player squad barely 12 months after scoring against England to help Australia claim their biggest pre-World Cup scalp. Grant was named as one of four alternates for Paris 2024 – meaning she will only get on the pitch if there is an injury to one of the core 18 players selected.

Pictured left Tony Gustavsson and right Matildas
Tony Gustavsson is confident the Matildas squad he takes to the Olympics can come home with a medal. Image: Getty

Despite the squad being hit by injuries, Gustavsson remains bullish about the Matildas' chances of earning a spot on the podium. Paris will mark the fifth Olympic Games for the Matildas, having featured in 2000, 2004, 2016 and 2020, with fourth place at the Tokyo Olympics their best-ever finish. And the Matildas face a tough task if they are to record their first-ever medal finish in Paris as they have to navigate an extremely strong group.

The Matildas are drawn in what has been labelled the 'group of death' with the USA, Germany and Zambia in Group B. The Australian women's side has only ever defeated the USA once in 33 meetings. In their last meeting, the Matildas lost 4-3 to then-World No.1 USA in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics bronze medal playoff.


But even with the tough group and extended list of sidelined stars, the Matildas coach believes they can still bring home a medal. "That's five (attackers) out in this game and then you add Caitlin Foord. That's six and we still performed the way we did," Gustavsson said following the Matildas' 3-0 win over China. "We need to remember the investment we've done for depth and being able to do this with four or five, six attacking options out of selection for today."

"We're going into that (Olympic) tournament rank nine," he continued. "In terms of ranking, we shouldn't even make it to the quarter-final but we want more than that. You know this team, they will never make excuses. We're just going to go there and do what we want to do and that is to try for a medal."

GOALKEEPERS: Mackenzie Arnold, Teagan Micah.

DEFENDERS: Ellie Carpenter, Clare Hunt, Alanna Kennedy, Steph Catley (captain), Clare Polkinghorne, Kaitlyn Torpey.

MIDFIELDERS: Kyra Cooney-Cross, Katrina Gorry, Tameka Yallop, Emily van Egmond, Clare Wheeler.

FORWARDS: Caitlin Foord, Mary Fowler, Hayley Raso, Cortnee Vine, Michelle Heyman.

ALTERNATES: Lydia Williams, Courtney Nevin, Charlotte Grant, Sharn Freier.

China women's national team coach Ante Milicic - a former Matildas manager - also believes the Matildas are in contention for a medal and suggests they could even take home gold. "Of course, they can go all the way," Milicic said.

"They've been very close in the past and it will be fitting for particularly this core group of players, this generation to get a medal as a reward for everything they've done for the code. The Olympics, it's different with 18 players and not as many teams so the quality is strong. But there's definitely a strong core group of players there that now hopefully, can make Australia proud and end up with the medal."

Head Coach of China Ante Milicic gives instructions to the players during a friendly football match between Australia and China at Accor Stadium in Sydney on June 03, 2024. (Photo by DAVID GRAY / AFP) / -- IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE -- (Photo by DAVID GRAY/AFP via Getty Images)
Former Matildas manager Ante Milicic believes the Matildas can take home gold from the Paris Games.

There has been much speculation about if the Matildas coach will leave following the 2024 Games and on Monday the Swede hinted at that being the case following Australia's win over China. Gustavvsoon's coaching contract is set to expire at the end of the Paris Games and he has previously been linked to roles with the Swedish and US national teams.

"I've been a bit emotional this camp," Gustavsson said. "As of right now, this might be my last camp on home soil. What I've said to myself, 'if so, I'm going to embrace and enjoy every single second and every minute of this camp', which I have."

with AAP