Matildas coach savaged over 'embarrassing' move after disastrous World Cup loss

Australia's hopes of advancing to the knockout stages at the Women's World Cup have been dealt a hammer blow.

Tony Gustavsson alongside Matildas players.

Football fans and commentators have rounded on Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson after Australia's shock 3-2 loss to Nigeria at the Women's World Cup on Thursday night. The Matildas were made to pay for a number of defensive lapses as they conceded two costly goals in the second half that put Nigeria up 3-1.

Alanna Kennedy managed to get a goal back for Australia in injury time, but they couldn't muster a third goal to salvage a draw. The loss comes as a huge shock for the host nation and leaves them needing a win against heavyweights Canada in the final group game in order to ensure their progression.

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In the aftermath of the shock result, questions are being asked as to why Gustavsson waited so long to get fresh legs on the pitch in the second half. The coach didn't make a substitution until the 82nd minute and even then it was a strange one, with central defender Clare Polkinghorne replacing winger Cortnee Vine.

Forward Alex Chidiac was then introduced three minutes later, providing a huge attacking spark as Chidiac, Caitlin Foord and Ellie Carpenter all then had shots saved or miss narrowly in the final minutes. Kennedy was also pushed up from the back to act as a striker, leaving fans and commentators baffled.

"I know it can look strange when you take an attacker off and put a defender on," Gustavsson said in his post-game press conference. "We were very, very close. We could have scored four goals in the last 10 minutes.

"Alanna is a brilliant attacking option and Polks' attributes on set plays and her winning mentality; she's scored tons of game winners from set plays. It's something we've played and prepared for."

However the coach conceded he may have pulled the strings a bit too late. "Did we get that because I did it in the right moment, or should I have done it earlier and we could have played longer with that positive effect?" he wondered.

"The No.1 challenge is to find the right answer before you know whether it's right or wrong. We had momentum and sometimes when you want to sub you don't want to disrupt the momentum. I'm going to review whether I did it too late or not."

Tony Gustavsson.
Tony Gustavsson looks on during Australia's clash with Nigeria at the Women's World Cup. (Photo by Elsa - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Football fans left fuming over Matildas 'disgrace'

Socceroos legend Mark Schwarzer was among the many to question Gustavsson's tactics. “I think when he looks back at the substitutions he made and the type of substitutions he made, he will look back with a bit of regret,” Schwarzer said.

“Bringing in Polkinghorne and moving Alanna Kennedy up front was way too early. It wasn’t effective until late in the game. I think when Chidiac came on she was a big difference. She should have probably scored, but I think if she had been on the field earlier it could have been a different result.”

“Nigeria are quick, they’re very energetic. They’ve got Asisat Oshoale who comes on. There’s 20 minutes to go and they’ve made four substitutions and we haven’t made one. What are our players thinking? They’ve made five substitutions and we haven’t made one.”

Matildas players.
Matildas players look on after their loss to Nigeria at the Women's World Cup. Image: Getty

Former Matildas player Amy Chapman added: “Chidiac really made a difference, we really needed that 15 minutes earlier. He needed to go for it. There’s a 3-1 gap there. It’s too late. They’re getting frustrated. Nigeria are dropping further and further back. It was too late.”

Fans were also highly critical on social media, with one writing: “An absolute disgrace. Embarrassing as a host of this tournament. One of the worst results for an Australian national team in recent times. Tactically inept coaching. Refusal to make subs and trying to cover it up by sticking your tall CB up top and spamming long balls and crosses. It was embarrassing.”

The Matildas are now on three points with a goal difference of 0 and sit third in Group B behind Nigeria (four points, +1) and Canada (four points, +1). It means a draw against World No.7 Canada in Melbourne on Monday likely won't be enough for them to reach the round of 16.

Gustavsson said he was hopeful of having Sam Kerr back for the do-or-die clash, but they won't know until game day whether her injured calf is up to scratch.

with AAP

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