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A deflated but determined Tony Gustavsson has implored his Matildas to find whatever they have left for their World Cup “bronze medal game” against Sweden.
A sensational solo Sam Kerr equaliser was not enough to stop England running away with Wednesday night’s semi-final, with the 3-1 result securing the Lionesses’ spot in Sunday’s final against Spain.
Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson applauds fans after the team’s 1-3 defeat to England.Credit: Getty Images
It leaves Australia bound once again for Brisbane to contest a consolation playoff that, if won, will mean finishing in third place at an expanded 32-team tournament – an achievement scarcely imaginable three weeks ago.
“I actually said in the circle after the game, it’s an extremely short turnaround to that game,” Gutavsson said. “I know we’re emotional, but we have no time to dwell on this one. We have a bronze medal game to play. We need to be ready.
“They [Sweden] have 24 hours on us in terms of recovery, which might play a massive part of that game. But tonight also, we had more 30 minutes more in the legs [than England] for extra-time last game. But that didn’t show in the second half of this game. So we’re tough. We’re fit. We dig deep. We have the support from the fans.”
Third-ranked Sweden, who placed third at the 1991, 2011 and 2019 World Cups, won every group-stage match including 5-0 over Italy.
Peter Gerhardsson’s side then knocked out reigning champions the United States via a penalty shootout in the round of 16, before defeating Japan in the quarter-finals and then losing 2-1 to Spain in the semis.
The Matildas have played Sweden numerous times of late, including November’s 4-0 friendly win and a scoreless draw in June 2021.
Sandwiched in between was a 1-0 Tokyo Olympics semi-final loss, which will surely be front of mind come Saturday’s fixture at Suncorp Stadium.
“I know Peter and the Swedish team, but I also think they know us,” Gustavsson said. “We played each other in the Olympics, we play a tremendous amount of friendlies against each other as well.
The Matildas squad applaud fans from the Stadium Australia pitch.Credit: Reuters
“Then you have to look at the teammates as well in terms of the players playing with them against each other, day in and day out. So a very interesting match-up. I’m going to be honest, I hope that it would’ve been the final, both for Sweden and us. But now it’s a bronze medal game and we need to [make] the most of that.”
Kerr utilised the opportunity post-match to call for more funding of women’s football, and Gustavsson echoed her sentiments
“Maybe we are not the highest-ranked team, and maybe we don’t have the same amount of players in the big clubs starting as England have and the same resources,” he said. “But we have something else very special in this team.
“That’s what the girls bring to it, with their DNA and being in and representing their country. And then with the support from the fans as well.
“This is now the second semifinal for two, two tournaments in a row, Olympic and, and this one. Uh, but right now we’re not happy about being in the semifinal. We’re disappointed to not being in the finals.”
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