The Australia women’s national team started this year as they ended the last: Winning, and winning well. They are currently enjoying their longest win streak since 2017, with the 3-2 victory over Spain last Sunday the highlight of this seven-game run. They blew their visitors away inside a frenetic first half, three goals scored and a Sam Kerr header chalked off wrongly for offside. Spain could barely catch their breath.
Beyond the results, these are the kind of displays Matildas fans have been desperate for. For a while, the team had not looked anything like what an Australia team should look like. At times, they didn’t look like a team full stop, more a loose collection of players out of position, in systems that didn’t work. Head coach Tony Gustavsson, brought in to lead the team through its home FIFA Women’s World Cup, was struggling to bridge the gap between theory and practice. Now, with just months to go before the tournament starts, the situation could not look or feel more different. The turnaround has been stunning.
Gustavsson was appointed in 2020. Previously, he assisted Pia Sundhage and Jill Ellis as the United States won two World Cups and an Olympic gold, and led Swedish club Tyresö FF to a Damallsvenskan title and Champions League final. Early on in his tenure as Australia boss, he asked for reality checks. They were duly delivered — 5-2 and 5-0 losses to Germany and the Netherlands underlining the scale of improvement needed. The Olympics in Tokyo were a success, in that Australia reached the semifinals for the first time. Still, they conceded 13 goals in six games, and won only twice: a narrow 2-1 over New Zealand and a bonkers 4-3 over Great Britain which required extra time.
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