Australia coach Tony Gustavsson has told his deflated team they have “no time to dwell” on their crushing Women’s World Cup semi-final loss to England, with a third-placed playoff still to come.
The Matildas slumped 3-1 to a ruthless England on Wednesday to shatter not only their dreams of lifting the trophy for the first time, but the hopes of an expectant nation captivated by their exploits.
Despite the gut-wrenching disappointment, they must lift themselves one last time to take bronze against Sweden in Brisbane on Saturday, with a new legion of fans wanting more.
“I actually said in the circle after the game, it’s an extremely short turnaround to that game,” said Gustavsson, who will be facing his home country.
“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.
“We’re tough, we’re fit, we dig deep. We have the support from the fans,” he added.
Australia’s run to the semi-finals was their best showing in a World Cup and sparked a groundswell of interest in football, winning hordes of new fans to a sport that usually plays second fiddle to Australian Rules, rugby and cricket.
Their showdown with England was watched by a record 11 million Australians, broadcast data showed — nearly half the country’s population.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the Matildas’ achievements would leave a lasting legacy, and praised them for the way they carried themselves on and off the field.
“The Matildas have inspired this and future generations to come,” he said on Thursday.
“To see the young girls, but also young boys with their faces painted, with their jerseys on, attending the Matildas games, watching right around the country is an inspiration and it will have a lasting impact.”
Star striker and skipper Sam Kerr, who scored a sensational equaliser against England, admitted the team was heartbroken, but said they were determined to repay the fans and go out on a high against Sweden.
“The amount of people who’ve come out to support us, who’ve been there at our hotel, I’ll say it again — it’s been amazing. We never could have dreamed about this kind of support,” she said.
“So yeah, we have to pick ourselves up and go again. And we’re going to do everything to win third place. We’ll be back up, ready to go to Brisbane, and hopefully to make everyone proud.”
They face a dangerous third-ranked Sweden who won all their group games then knocked out defending champions the United States before crashing 2-1 to Spain in the semi-finals.
Peter Gerhardsson’s side, who came third in 2019, have extra motivation in wanting to send out their inspirational skipper Caroline Seger with a victory in her final international game.
Gustavsson knows the team well and predicted “a very interesting match-up”.
“I’m going to be honest, I hoped that it would’ve been the final, both for Sweden and us,” he said. “But now it’s a bronze medal game and we need to make the most of that.”