It remains to be seen, then, if Gustavsson wants to guide them through another four-year cycle – which would take in the home Asian Cup in 2026, the next World Cup in Brazil in 2027, and the Los Angeles Olympics in 2028 – or if FA even wants him. An obvious successor is Joe Montemurro, the former Women’s Super League winner who recently left Juventus and came home to coach the A-League All Stars against Arsenal, another of his old teams.

It may depend on what happens in Paris. If the Matildas can finally break through and win their first medal at a global tournament, it could be the perfect moment to ride off into the sunset – as several of the older players in Gustavsson’s 18-player squad will probably do.

Matildas captain Steph Catley with coach Tony Gustavsson.

Matildas captain Steph Catley with coach Tony Gustavsson.Credit: Getty

After losing the World Cup third-place play-off to Sweden and the bronze medal match to the United States at the Tokyo Olympics, there is clearly a sense of unfinished business among this cohort of players, eight of whom are going to their third Olympic Games.

“We’ve come fourth a couple of times now, and it’s getting on our nerves a little bit,” said winger Hayley Raso. “We’re all really wanting to achieve something and bring something back.”

Ellie Carpenter described the team’s ongoing lack of silverware – or goldware, or bronzeware – as the “only thing missing” from their legacy, and something they have been trying to address accordingly with their preparations for Paris.

“It’s that final product, the final details at the end of the tournament – we’re all tired, you’ve played six games, we know that’s the toughest game, you have to perform,” she said.

“Obviously, there’s going to be fatigue. That’s what we’re really focusing on. And we have been working on that, mentally and physically leading into this Olympics, because it’s going to be cut-throat. And we know what it needs to take to be there, so we really need to be prepared, and we’re really going to be pushing for that medal.”

Charli Grant during the Matildas Olympic qualifiers last year.

Charli Grant during the Matildas Olympic qualifiers last year.Credit: Getty

There were no great shocks in the squad. Gustavsson has gambled on the fitness of Katrina Gorry (syndesmosis) and Caitlin Foord (hamstring) but, taking both players at their word, it is not much of a gamble. Gorry told this masthead last week she was certain she’ll be fully fit and recovered in time, while Foord’s hamstring twinge against China on Friday night in Adelaide was so minor she probably would have kept playing if they were in tournament mode.

The most high-profile exclusions were retiring goalkeeper Lydia Williams and defender Charlotte Grant, who deputised for Carpenter brilliantly when she was out of the team with an ACL injury but has struggled for a regular role since, and has been overtaken by the more versatile Kaitlyn Torpey.

“That’s the hard thing with the Olympic squads … [they are] so small, and one of the things that’s most important is having flexibility,” said captain Steph Catley. “Sometimes that means that you’re not going to have double-ups in different positions, you’re going to have more players that can play different roles. I think that’s just where it’s maybe tipped Charlie out of favour.”

NSW Origin stars Brian To’o and Jarome Luai played second fiddle to the Matildas at Sydney’s Olympic Park on Tuesday.

NSW Origin stars Brian To’o and Jarome Luai played second fiddle to the Matildas at Sydney’s Olympic Park on Tuesday.Credit: Christian Nicolussi

Grant and Williams will still travel with the team, stay in the athletes’ village and train every day after being named as alternates, along with defender Courtney Nevin and forward Sharn Freier. Under rejigged IOC rules, they can be activated at any time until 24 hours before the medal matches, but only in the case of a legitimate injury deemed serious enough to end another player’s involvement in the tournament.

Cortnee Vine, meanwhile, was left feeling relieved. She became Australia’s overnight hero with her penalty shootout heroics against France but took a break from the national team earlier this year, sitting out of an international window to prioritise her own mental health as she struggled with the demands of her newfound fame.


It was a decision which she knew would put her childhood dream of competing at the Olympics at risk.

“At the time, obviously, it was a massive call, and I knew what I was jeopardising when I took that time off,” she said.

“Sometimes you have to put yourself first – as a person, over the football. I do think that helps on-field stuff. That’s what I had to do. I think it has benefited [me], I feel like I’ve come back, and I know what I want, I know what I need to do, I want to be the best player I can be. That’s because of that time.”

The Matildas begin their Olympic campaign on July 25 against Germany in Marseille, then face Zambia (July 28) and the United States (July 31), the other teams in Group A.