Inspired Matildas eye golden Games glory in Paris

Having shaken off a bout of post-World Cup depression, Tony Gustavsson is confident of firing up the Matildas once more for a shot at Olympic gold-medal glory in Paris.

A semi-final loss to England at last year's home World Cup has left Australia's golden generation of soccer stars with seemingly one last crack at major tournament success before the likes of Caitlin Foord, Steph Catley, Katrina Gorry and the injured Sam Kerr hit the twilight of their careers.

Foord, Catley, Gorry, Kerr and others will all be approaching their mid-30s by the next global showpiece in 2027 and the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.

Hence why Gustavsson is going all out to help the Matildas deliver in Paris in what may also be the Swedish coach's final time in charge.

Having transcended women's football and packed stadiums in Australia for their past 14 home games, the Matildas' placing at the upcoming Games won't define his side, according to Gustavsson.

Australian fans have embraced the Matildas.
Australian fans have embraced the Matildas, consistently filling stadiums.

"This team stands for so much more than just the result," he told fans at a Vivid Sydney forum.

"The World Cup showed that, yes, they didn't medal but they won something much bigger than that.

"But I also know that this team wants nothing but making sure they also have something tangible, meaning a medal around the neck even though success for them is not just about the medal.

"It's so much more than that.

"It doesn't mean we don't want to win. We are desperate to win a medal and, together with Australia, I think everyone feels that the Matildas deserves a medal."

Despite superstar Kerr sitting out the tournament following knee surgery and Foord and Gorry under fitness clouds, Gustavsson believes "anything is possible" in France.  

"What we do know with the Olympics, though, is it's tough just to get out of the groups," he said.

"It's 12 teams. We're ranked nine in that tournament of the 12 teams, which means it should be eight other teams in the quarter-finals according to ranking.

"If you look at our injury situation right now, with a lot of players unavailable, everyone would say, 'Hey, they won't even make it out of the group'.

"That thought doesn't even exist in our talks. It's all about that opening game against Germany. Get the points we need to get out of the group, because that's like step one.

"Once we get out of the group, anything can happen. It's so tight now at the top level of women's football. Anyone can beat anyone.

Matildas celebrate a win.
Tony Gustavsson believes with the top teams being so close, the Matildas can beat any side.

"You just need to make sure you get off that group. Then after that, once we're in playoffs, we saw what this team can deliver in playoff games when it's do-or-die situations.

"They love it."

The Matildas and Gustvasson make no secret of their desire to complete unfinished business, especially the coach, who revealed the extent of his  post-2023 World Cup blues.

"It's almost like a post-tournament syndrome that exists. You almost go into a little bit of a depression because you're so switched on," he said.

"There's so much adrenalin, the schedule ... then all of a sudden it's just empty.

"It's just 'OK, where am I supposed to be now? When is the next meeting? When is the next training?'

"And it's a little bit depressing to be honest. It's tough to go through that."

The Matildas face Germany on July 25, before also playing the USA and Zambia.

The top two teams from the three groups, plus the two highest-ranked third-placed sides, will progress to the quarter-final knockout stage. 

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