New Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson is determined to play as many top opponents as possible to prepare Australia for a jam-packed schedule of international tournaments.
Gustavsson kicked off his tenure on January 1 and has held group Zoom meetings with staff and players, along with individual catch-ups with the 21 contracted Matildas.
The next step is getting players together in person for the first time since March last year.
Gustavsson says “every minute counts” before the Olympics, with match-hardening his players against the world’s best across the three international breaks before Tokyo a priority.
“We need to play as many games as possible against the best opposition possible and that’s just easy, to look at the rankings and see,” Gustavsson said.
“I want to play as tough of a schedule as possible, even if it means (it’s) challenging and (there are) difficulties to begin with, coming in as a new coach.
“I could … 15 years ago say ‘maybe we should have a little bit of a slow start and play opposition that we know we can maybe dominate a little bit more and get some good results’.
“I (would) get the positive vibe as a new coach and get the buy-in from players and buy-in from (the media) and not get too criticised the first game (if we lose).
“But I’ve been around long enough to know if I demand everyone to have a mindset that we want to get one day better, I also need to schedule us to get one day better.
“I know the best way for us now to get better as a team, is to play as tough opposition as is possible.”
Gustavsson also highlighted a need for Australia to broaden the range of teams and the playing styles they came up against.
“That’s also getting exposed to different ways of playing and being able to adjust and adapt, even on the field,” he said.
“Using that as a mantra, I’ve said to the staff and the players now, in terms of the world we live in today, I’ve chosen to quote Charles Darwin, who says ‘It’s not the strongest that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives, it’s the ones that is most adaptable to change’.
“We have really been challenged this last year in terms of being adaptable to what’s around us because it’s a different world now – and I think that skill set is also important on a football field.”
Gustavsson will split his time between his native Sweden and Australia but hopes to be based predominantly Down Under by the middle of next year.
The 47-year-old said he could already sense personal “similarities” between himself and his charges.
“We’re very passionate about things and we want to get on the pitch and create good things and create a legacy that is bigger than ourselves,” he said.