Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson has defended his tactics despite being roundly criticised after his side’s shock loss to Nigeria.
Australia came into the contest in Brisbane with hopes of making it two wins from two, but were stunned by the world No.40 in a 3-2 loss which leaves its FIFA Women’s World Cup hopes dangling by a thread.
Gustavsson was heavily criticised after making just two substitutions late in the match, one of which was to bring on veteran defender Clare Polkinghorne when trailing 3-1.
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“When he looks back at those substitutions, when he made them and the type of substitutions he made, he’ll look back with a little bit of regret,” said Socceroos legend Mark Schwarzer on Optus Sport.
“I think taking off an attacking player and then putting on Clare Polkinghorne and (moving) Alanna Kennedy up front, it was way too early and wasn’t effective until later on in the game.
“I think Alex Chidiac, when she came on she was a big difference. She should’ve probably scored, but I thought she needed more time on the pitch, and I think if she had been on earlier it could’ve been a different result.”
However, Gustavsson shrugged off the criticism when speaking after the match, explaining why he made the move to put Kennedy forward when he did.
“Alannah is a double line, as we call her, playing two lines with an aerial presence which is something we have done in the past. The last time I think was against New Zealand when we scored late goals and won the game in overtime,” he said.
“Alannah has a forward mindset with her aerial presence and her finishing. So, that is something we have trained and prepared. We’ve done it before and we’ve done it a lot in training.”
Gustavsson did admit that questions around his substitutions were “fair”.
“In terms of the late subs, I think that’s a fair question and that’s something that I need to look at as a coach,” he said.
“Did I find the right time for the subs tonight? We did get a positive effect when I did it (but) did we get that because I did it in the right moment or should I have done it earlier and we could have played longer with that positive effect?
“It’s something that I’m going to review afterwards but I do think that the players were prepared for what we wanted to do and I think Chids (Chidiac) came in and was that game changer. She was upset afterwards that she didn’t score but I said, ‘Hey, you were brilliant Chids, you were that game changer that we practiced’. She did exactly what she was asked to do.
“Maybe we should have scored on set plays even earlier but it’s no coincidence that we did score on a set play once (Kennedy went forward).
“As a coach, the number one challenge is to try and find the right answer before you know whether it’s right or wrong. I think the players on the park were performing pretty well and we had the momentum and sometimes when you sub, you want to disrupt the momentum in the game, and thought we had a good momentum going. But, in that sense, I am going to review whether I did it too late or not because Chids was brilliant when she came in.
“When it comes to saying we replaced an attacker for a defender, I think that’s a logic question, but as I said, Alannah is a brilliant attacking option for us and then Polks (Polkinghorne) actually leads on set plays, and her winning mentality (is an advantage).
“Polks is a true winner, so to get her on the park with her physicality and her attacking set play presence – she has scored tons of game-winners from set plays.
“It gave us another tool and it is something we have planned and prepared for, so I know it can look strange when I take an attacker off and put a defender on but it’s more about what type of attacking tool do you want at that point in the game and I think we got a good effect on it tonight.”
“We could have scored four goals in the last 10 minutes.”
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