Australia reached the Tokyo Olympics with four defeats and a draw during the tenure of new national team captain Tony Gustafson. Little spoke of the team as a strong candidate for the medal.
Now four teams remain in the tournament. Matildas is one of them.
For the first time in history, the team will play the semi-finals of a major tournament for seniors.
We have always had a strong belief in what we can achieve. So many tournaments before we thought we’d be able to challenge the best, but that wasn’t real. So breaking that barrier is a big deal for us. Team Australia deputy captain Steve Catley says.
The only loss so far
In Monday’s semi-final in Yokohama, Sweden awaits, the only team to have defeated Australia so far in the tournament. But after beating Great Britain 4-3 in the quarter-finals after extra time, the Australians are full of confidence.
– Now we are in the semi-finals and everything is possible. Sweden is an amazing team that is really progressing now. But so far in tournaments, it’s just tough matches. We aim high and feel we can beat all teams if we have a good day. Catley says it would be absolutely unbelievable to take the gold
She can’t stress enough what Tony Gustafson meant for the team.
– When he took over, we really started from scratch and didn’t have much time. But all along, and despite the fact that we conceded so many goals and lost matches, he said, “This is not the time when we have to be at our best, it’s in the Olympic quarter-finals.” Steve Catley says he really managed to instill confidence in all the players on the team.
More football: Watch highlights from the Olympic quarter-finals Sweden-Japan (30 July 2021)
Striker Kia Simon says the 47-year-old Swede came with plenty of energy and tactical knowledge, but also with respect for the team who took over.
– Emotion is really a word to show. His energy, charisma and passion for his work and our team. He did not try to impose all his tactics and playing style on us. Simon says he tried to adapt tactics to suit our players and our way of playing.
Tony Gustafson smiles widely when he hears his players. But he is quick to water down his importance and tactics.
In the end, it wasn’t the tactics that got us here, it was the passion and the heart. The players had to fight hard to win against Great Britain, and the tough winning mentality they displayed was amazing. And I have a very small part in it, says Gustafson, which was something guys had long before I came here.
More football: Watch highlights of Sweden’s win over Australia (24 July 2021)
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