- Tony Gustavsson has been criticised
- Matildas were thumped 5-0 by Canada
- Andy Harper said he threw his players under the bus
Andy Harper has hit out at Matildas boss Tony Gustavsson following Australia’s ‘extraordinarily disappointing’ 5-0 defeat by Canada.
The former Newcastle United star questioned Gustavsson’s decision to field a weakened team on Saturday, with Mary Fowler, Steph Catley and Caitlin Foord on the bench while Sam Kerr and Mackenzie Arnold were out injured
Gustavsson was duly punished for that call with the Matildas succumbing to their heaviest defeat since their 7-0 loss to Spain in June 2022.
And Harper said the Matildas coach exposed his team when it was not necessary.
‘Well, something was achieved: somehow we’ve managed to hang girls out to dry in the driving rain,’ Harper said on Channel 10 after the game.
‘I don’t know quite what was to be done here with this (approach). I feel for some of the individuals involved. It’s going to be a tough few days until they get the chance to get back on the training pitch. We’ve been there, we know what it’s like to be put under that duress and come up short – and when you come up short, you can’t wait for a chance to fix it.
Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson has copped heavy criticism from Andy Harper
Gustavsson fielded a weakened team which fell to a 5-0 defeat by Canada
‘I don’t understand why we had to go down this path in this game. It was extraordinarily disappointing. We’re going to hear about managing loads and this, that and the other. I don’t understand why Clare Wheeler couldn’t have played next to Kyra Cooney-Cross, or Sarah Hunter couldn’t have played next to Katrina Gorry. Just have one part of the field, to give some sort of stability.
‘Particularly for Sarah Hunter. What an enormous occasion it is to be called up for your first national team cap. Celebratory mood around Christine Sinclair, the Matildas skyrocketing in the charts.
‘What a big occasion, and Sarah Hunter, just to talk about one youngster, you’re looking around the team and thinking: ‘How do we do this?’ And then (you’re) under enormous pressure.
‘I’m just wondering what the experiment was for here in that first half?’
But Gustavsson justified his decision by insisting he needed to build squad depth.
‘We’ve had a lot of debate and discussion, I listened to my experts around me with my sports science and physios about load management on players,’ he said.
The Matildas coach justified the decision as he looks to manage his players’ loads
But Harper said Gustavsson hung his players out to dry with his decision
‘If you for example, have a player that only has one game, which game are we playing (with them)?
‘If we mix, maybe we get more like two solid performances but also at the expense of maybe continuity in a potential starting line-up.
‘Age-wise and number of caps maybe not so experienced, but there was still enough there to feel that we had a balance and a structure.
‘Sometimes growth hurts. Growth and development hurts at times. As long as you know why you’re doing it and what you’re doing and it’s up to me also to protect the players in this journey.’