Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson labels England as favourites in World Cup semi-final

Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson has piled pressure on “favourites” England while keeping the Lionesses guessing on Sam Kerr’s minutes in their blockbuster Women’s World Cup semi-final.

On Wednesday night at Stadium Australia, the Matildas will face the European champions for a spot in the final.

Australia, currently ranked No.10, defeated world No.4 England 2-0 in a friendly in April and has enjoyed a stellar run against top teams.

When asked whether the Matildas considered themselves underdogs, Gustavsson said: “In terms of favouritism and who’s the favourites, I’ll leave it to you guys (the media) to speculate and write about that.”

But the Swede then pointed out every advantage England has over the Matildas, including suggesting their women’s program had a bigger budget than Football Australia’s entire national teams program.

“If you look at rankings, they’re favourites. If you look at where their players play, they have starting players in top clubs and top leagues all over the world – not just 11, they have like 15, 16,” he said.

“And then you compare to us: We have bench players in those teams. We have players playing in A-League. We have players playing in mid-table teams in Sweden.

“So if you look at all that and you look at resources financially, obviously they are a massive favourite going into this game.

“But if you then add the belief we have, but the one thing that we have that they don’t have is the support and the belief from the fans and that itself is going to be massive tomorrow.”

Kerr played 65 minutes and converted a spot kick in the quarter-final penalty shootout against France, her second game back from injury.

“She pushed through more minutes than we hoped for, to be honest,” Gustavsson said.

“One of the reasons why we kept her on the bench was that we were uncertain how many minutes she had coming back from that calf injury but also the limited training minutes she had.

“The way she pushed through was fantastic and impressive both from a mental and physical aspect.

“She recovered well. She trained today, so she’s available. There’ll be a meeting tonight again to see the best starting 11 and the best finishing 11 and whether we plan for 90 minutes or plan for extra time and those type of decisions.

“There’ll be some tough decisions tonight again, but Sam is definitely available for selection.”

Every player bar forward Kyah Simon (knee) trained on Tuesday morning.

That included vice-captain Steph Catley, whose right thigh strapping Gustavsson dismissed as a “knock”.

The Matildas have consistently avoided buying into the Australia-England rivalry.

When asked if being knocked out of the tournament by the Lionesses was “unthinkable”, goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold quickly responded: “Being knocked out by anyone is kind of unthinkable.

“Yeah, there’s probably a lot of English people that would love to see us knocked out by England, but I think there’s more Australians that would love to see England knocked out by us.

“We have such big rivalries with so many different countries, so it’s just another game for us.

“Obviously, England are such a top team, but we’ve been taking one game at a time and it seems to be working for us so far. So that will be the same tomorrow night.”


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