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How are the Matildas shaping up just 100 days out from the World Cup?

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10th April, 2023

Approaching almost three years since Australia and New Zealand found out they won the rights to host the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, time has scarily flown by.

The excitement and nerves are slowly starting to assemble around the country in anticipation of the biggest sporting event to hit our shores since the 2000 Olympics. 

Over the past decade, the Matildas have inspired a new generation of young aspiring footballers and have been adored by the Australian public. 

Alen Stajcic was the man responsible for taking the Aussie girls to the next level by becoming the first senior Australian football team to win a knockout stage match at a World Cup by winning silver at the Asian Championships.

Under Stajcic, the Aussies qualified for the Olympics for the first time in 12 years, and attaining the Matildas’ highest ever ranking of number five in the world, all while developing the next generation and playing some incredibly entertaining and attractive football in the process.

Unfortunately, his shock sacking led to a couple of management changes which in truth rattled the cohesion and consistency of the playing group as they were forced to adjust accordingly. 

Now, Sweden-born Tony Gustavsson is tasked with the challenge of guiding the Matildas to a deep run in the World Cup, where all eyes will be on them to perform down under.

Assistant coach Tony Gustavsson of the United States

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)


So, how is the squad adapting to life under Gustavsson and are there any lingering issues to fix just 100 days out from the tournament?

At the beginning of the 49-year-old’s tenure, it felt as though he struggled to get a real grip on the identity of how he wanted the team to play, tinkering with a lot of options but not producing the results. 

On Friday, the Matildas lost their first game since September at a neutral ground in Wimbledon, going down 1-0 to 23rd-ranked Scotland in a friendly. 

An alarming statistic proves that Gustavsson’s girls still need to prove their worth against the very best, as they’ve only won four of the last 22 games against top-25-ranked opposition.

To be fair, three of those past four victories have come most recently against Denmark, Sweden, and Spain (albeit the Spanish facing a crisis under their new manager.)

There was a period during Stajcic’s reign when the Matildas looked virtually unstoppable and combined incredibly well all over the park to create scoring opportunities. Glimpses of those same patterns have been evident under Gustavsson, most notably in the 3-2 victory over Spain in the Nations Cup. 

In saying that, what’s most concerning just over three months out from the showpiece event is how heavily reliant and dependent the squad seems to be on certain players. 


Australia’s group opponents for the World Cup contain Canada, Nigeria and the Republic of Ireland. Back in September 2021, Australia suffered a 3-2 loss to the Irish without key pieces such as Caitlin Foord, Ellie Carpenter, and Kyah Simon.

Foord was also unavailable against Scotland along with superstar Sam Kerr, casting some doubt over whether this team contains the depth and personnel to carry the weight of responsibility from these important names.

Sam Kerr of Australia celebrates

(Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Promising 20-year-old forward Mary Fowler has been dubbed the next best thing for Australia since she made her debut in 2018 and already has 34 caps to her name.

However, her past few games have been underwhelming and that’s to be expected for a player so young, but she’s proven that she can’t be relied upon when the pressure heats up in July.

In that same match against Ireland, all three goals conceded were a result of set pieces, highlighting the biggest weakness that needs to be urgently dealt with. 

After the defeat, Gustavsson admitted that this was an area that needed to be deeply analysed and rectified. 


“The one thing we didn’t train on the field before the game was defending set plays, we only covered it in a video session,” he said. 

Since then, they have only conceded three goals from set plays, but it’s nations such as Ireland that Gustavsson needs to be wary about as opposed to teams like Spain and the USA who carry so many other weapons.

The balance within the squad is there for all to see, but Gustavsson needs to utilise his training sessions effectively with the little time he will be given before the event kicks off on July 20. 

Mackenzie Arnold has come into her own between the sticks. Clare Polkinghorne and Alanna Kennedy offer the experience at the back. Versatility and depth cover the midfield with the likes of Elise Kellond-Knight, Emily Van Egmond, and Katrina Gorry guiding 21-year-old Kyra Cooney-Cross.

Up front, we’re all aware of the exciting talent and ability.

No doubt there are a lot of positive signs, but can Gustavsson prepare his squad well enough to take down the world’s best?