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Australia coach: World Cup a ‘failure’ if Matildas exit early

(Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Australia head coach Tony Gustavsson did not mince words when talking about the idea that the Matildas might not advance out of the group stage.

With eight straight World Cups under the team’s belt, the last time they failed to make the knockout rounds was in 2003. After that, they ran off three-straight quarterfinals appearances and in 2019 made it to the Round of 16.

Their highest-ever finish has been sixth place, at the 2007 World Cup.

But the hopes had been different this time around, with the team being led by Sam Kerr and co-hosting the tournament.

“I definitely think it’s fair to say it’s a failure if we don’t go out of the group,” said Gustavsson. “I’m the first to admit that, I’ll take ownership for that.”

Of course, part of it can be attributed to the fact that captain – and star striker – Kerr has been out the last two games with a calf injury. While Kerr has said she’ll be ready to go against Canada, Gustavsson has remained relatively aloof.

“We’re gonna have a meeting tonight with the medical team and Sam and discuss what the possibility is for her to play tomorrow,” Gustavsson said. “And then we’re going to do some tests tomorrow to see what it looks like. Everyone that’s been in sports, they know about calf injuries; it’s one thing that you’re available but there’s also risk when you come back from a muscle injury. And I think everyone understands that.

“There’s a lot on the table to discuss and we probably don’t know how exactly we’re going to use that until we’re coming into the stadium tomorrow.”

A former assistant for the USWNT, who helped the team to World Cup wins in 2015 and 2019, Gustavsson has quite a resume he’s built. But he’s attempting to build a legacy apart from the USWNT as head coach of the Matildas. And this team is trying to build one as well, with hopes to win the World Cup at home.

“I think it’s a massive game in that sense, and we can’t shy away from that,” he said. “We’ve spoken a couple of times before about legacy and the legacy and the why about this team. And you know, long-term legacy, it’s a different type of question.

“But if you talk about sports and results, this game is massive. We can’t shy away from that, this is a critical moment.”