No more deep construction, focus now on core group for World Cup: Australia coaches

MELBOURNE: The embattled Aussie coach Tony Gustavsson has all but committed to his squad for the Women’s World Cup, telling fringe players they face an uphill battle to break into the squad.

Gustavsson was heavily criticized for playing with an experimental side in the 7-0 defeat by Spain in June, the Matildas’ worst defeat in a quarter of a century.

On Thursday, the Swede called up striker Sam Kerr and a number of veteran players in a 23-man squad for two friendlies against Canada next month and said he had “drawn a line in the sand” in his preparations for next year’s World Cup.

“You saw we had 17 debutants in the last 18 months,” he told reporters in a video call.

“We almost used the national team as a development platform – which it usually isn’t.

“We looked back over the 18 months… and then said, ok, let’s draw the line and now narrow the focus to the core group of players.

“It doesn’t mean the door is completely closed to other players, but it’s going to be a lot harder to get accepted into the national team now.”

Gustavsson led the Matildas to their first Olympic semi-final in Tokyo last year, but their results under the Swede have been disappointing as Australia prepare to join New Zealand in hosting the World Cup.

The Matildas have struggled against Europe’s top sides and were eliminated from the quarter-finals of the Women’s Asian Cup in India in January.

Gustavsson said his players and staff had full confidence in the squad’s development, even if the public didn’t.

“Out there maybe I wasn’t good enough to explain what we did and why it seemed that way and maybe I can do a better job there,” he said.

“I understand that maybe it takes good results outside to regain confidence.”