14/04/2024

Returning Matilda Michelle Heyman (Photo: The Matildas)

After coming up with the win against Uzbekistan on Saturday night, Tony Gustavsson ponders including Caitlin Foord and Michelle Heyman in the starting XI.

It’s a day out from the Olympic Qualifier against Uzbekistan to be played at Marvel Stadium, all eyes are on Matildas head coach Tony Gustavsson. He spoke about the options that he has to consider in the make up of the starting team and who could be in-line for more game time.

With former Melbourne City fullback Kaitlyn Torpey making her senior debut in the first Olympic Qualifier, it was clear that Gustavsson is not opposed to testing out the depth of the wider Australian talent pool.

This was contrasted with his decision to save Foord for the second half due to load management, as well as one to bring Heyman in for her first Matildas game in five years.

He gives an update on both Heyman’s likeliness to start the game given her impact on the side, as well as how many minutes Foord can expect to receive given she is easily a starting player.

“Both of them (Heyman and Foord) are definitely options to start, especially [with] Heyman’s performance when she came off the bench,” Gustavsson said.

“[With] Caitlin we knew we just had to adjust her load a little bit heading in, we will see in training today how she looks in terms of how many minutes and then how we use those minutes to start or in the second half.

“There’s always a plan [on how best to rotate players during] those 90 minutes, you might see a couple of rotations [but] I also think consistency and chemistry is key, you’ve seen that over the years.”

He shed some light on his focus as coach, with one eye towards the Paris Olympics, but also the road to get there.

“We don’t have that many games before the Olympics [and] we haven’t qualified yet, we need to focus on one game but it’s not just a game to qualify but it’s also a game to get minutes preparing for [the] potential [of the] Olympics,” he explained.

“[It’s about] finding that right balance between consistency and getting playing time together, and getting chemistry [but] also giving some players a chance.

“[We will] look at training and how many minutes some of the players have, and that can influence one or two positions. We will know after training today because we haven’t trained since we left Uzbekistan.”

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A lot has been made about the loss of captain Sam Kerr and what she brings as one of the best strikers in world football. Gustavsson describes the options he has had in the squad to give the Matildas offence either a similar look or something completely different, depending on their needs.

“One of the reasons that we brought in Heyman as well is to look at what it looks like to play an out-and-out nine and kind of replace Sam, shouldn’t compare players like that but, more like a pure nine kind of player,” Gustavsson continued.

“Where’s a couple of other players in the roster that can do that as well, you saw when we played Uzbekistan I moved [Hayley] Raso up [to play that role] for a little bit during the game.

“She played as a nine over here when we scored against France and won one-nil when Sam was on the bench [so] if we want speed in a nine, she’s an option up there as well.

“We have a couple of options [and] that is part of preparing for the Olympics as well, is to see what options we do have, some of them we already know about but it’s also time to test something new.”

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