‘Written in the stars’: Gustavsson’s emotional Matildas rollercoaster


“And then it comes down to 10 PKs [penalty kicks] and Vine steps up – a game changer, we know how important that is. A young player and World Cup debutant, to stay as composed as she does.”

“I also have to mention Macca, missing the PK and staying in the game and being that player who wins the game for us. It’s unheard of. That mental strength of hers is just … ”

Gustavsson, having just guided a first Australian national football team to a World Cup semi-final, said he always believed the Matildas could win on Saturday night. Despite all the twists and turns of a scary and hairy three hours at Suncorp Stadium, he says it was never in doubt.

Tony Gustavsson huddles with his team before the start of extra time.Credit: Reuters

Now the Matildas have yet another date of destiny, this time with England in Sydney on Wednesday night. Win that and only one game stands between Australia and a trophy, which less than a fortnight ago appeared – externally at least – a long way from winning.

“I genuinely really believe this team can create history in so many ways,” he said straight after his team had already created history.

“Not just winning football games, but the way that they can inspire the next generation. How they can unite a nation, how they can leave a legacy that is much bigger than 90 minutes of football. I think that is also why I believe in them so much, because this is so much bigger than just football.

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“That internal drive as a human being, whether it’s an individual or a group, that is a powerful tool that’s very difficult to stop. And I’ve sensed that from day one working with this team. That’s what gets them to where they are today.”

The Matildas had their backs against the wall against Canada. They enjoyed a professional win against Denmark. Against France it was a combination of both.

“I love it,” Gustavsson said. “We’ve shown that we thrive under pressure, over and over and over again in this tournament. And I’ve said it before, I think I have some unhealthy addiction to do-or-die games and these types of moments. It makes you feel alive.

“I just said to my staff before I walked in here, ‘this is what life is about, creating memories with the ones you love the most’. And to be able to do that tonight with this team has been amazing.”

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