Soccer

‘He’s what we need’: Sam Kerr delighted with new Matildas coach

Matildas superstar Sam Kerr has given an early endorsement of new coach Tony Gustavsson, who has finally taken his first training session in charge of the team six months after being appointed to the role.

The Australian women’s squad has assembled in snowy Soest, at the headquarters of the Dutch federation, ahead of blockbuster friendlies against Germany and the Netherlands – their first matches since sealing qualification for the Tokyo Olympics in March last year.

Sam Kerr and Emily van Egmond at Matildas training in GermanyCredit:Ann Odong/FFA

Swede Gustavsson was officially hired in late September but has had to resort to Zoom meetings with his players in the interim, with the Matildas unable to meet up due to pandemic-related travel issues.

Kerr, who has been in a rich vein of form with Chelsea, said the vibe within the group was positive and optimistic about the road ahead under Gustavsson, who will guide the team through the next two Olympic campaigns and the 2023 Women’s World Cup on home soil.

“He’s a nice guy, smiley guy,” Kerr said. “We haven’t had too much to do with him as of yet because it’s only been one session and the whole squad’s not in. But he seems like a really positive guy, seems like he knows his stuff and seems very to the point.

“I think he’s going to fit in well not only with the team off the field, but on the field, I think he’s what we need.

Tony Gustavsson has finally taken his first Matildas training session.Credit:Ann Odong/FFA

“It’s exciting. We have a new coach, a lot of new players in the team. It just feels good to be back in the Matildas gear and see all the girls again. It’s been difficult, especially seeing other national teams being able to do things, but we’ve got to make the most of the opportunities we have now.”

Gustavsson made it clear early in his tenure that he wanted the toughest schedule possible for the Matildas, and he has managed to achieve that with clashes against Germany and the Netherlands, who sit second and fourth in FIFA’s world rankings.

The first fixture, to be played early on Sunday morning (AEST) in Wiesbaden, will trigger a reciprocal clash with Germany in Australia to be scheduled at a later date.

“They really put it on us, didn’t they,” Kerr joked, when asked about the calibre of the team’s next two opponents.

“I think that’s great. All those teams have been playing multiple games like most of us in Europe. They’ve got some of the best players in the world.

“That’s what we want. We want to see where we’re at; it’s a good benchmark for us. There’s a lot of new faces and it is going to be a challenge, but Aussies love that underdog mentality, so I’m sure we’ll roll with it.”

Kerr, 27, netted a hat-trick in her last FA Women’s Super League match for Chelsea and has scored a combined 10 goals in her past six outings across all competitions.

She now sits top of the WSL’s goal-scoring charts and is being touted as the world’s best striker, having battled through a lean period early in her time in England amid criticism about her finishing.

“Unique, I think,” said Kerr when asked to describe her past 12 months with Chelsea, where she has been subject to multiple harsh lockdowns in London.

“It’s been that way for everyone. It’s been just dealing with things week to week, day by day even. Things can change so quickly.

“For me, on the pitch, it’s been really enjoyable. I’ve been enjoying my time at Chelsea, we’ve been playing really well, winning a lot of games. It’s been a growing year for me, but also really, really enjoyable.”

Gustavsson has picked a squad comprised of players based in Europe, with W-League players firmly on his radar but not considered for this camp due to travel difficulties. Domestic players are likely to be part of a separate camp in May to give them the chance to push their selection claims for Tokyo.

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