Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson has impressed many a critic and fans during the FIFA Women’s World Cup and now he has emerged as a possible target for a rival country.
Vlatko Andonovski has resigned as coach of the US women’s national team following their miserable campaign, with Gustavsson suddenly in the mix as a possible long-term replacement.
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The highly respected Jill Ellis – who is a former coach of the USA’s women’s team – says Gustavsson should be circled and quickly shoved to the top of the list of must-speak-to candidates.
Gustavsson worked with Ellis and the USA team during their glory years of 2015 and 2019 where they were the dominant team and won both tournaments.
But after Ellis resigned, the US team appointed Andonovski, who has had a rocky time in the hot seat ever since.
Tony Gustavsson Credit: Getty Images
The defending champions were knocked out of the World Cup in a penalty shootout in the round of 16, the team’s earliest exit from the tournament they have won four times.
And they managed just one victory – 3-0 over Vietnam – to finish second in their group behind the Netherlands to qualify for the knockout stages.
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That was on the back of a lacklustre showing at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, where the 46-year-old piloted the squad to a bronze medal (after they beat Australia 4-3 in the third-place playoff).
Speaking on ESPN, Ellis backed the popular Matildas coach for the US position.
“He should definitely be a strong candidate for the job,” Ellis said.
“I don’t think people are giving him and his staff enough credit for having navigated most of this tournament without arguably one of the best players in the world (in Sam Kerr).
“Most of us as coaches would not have said Australia was even close to being a contender without Kerr, so that’s pretty remarkable what they’ve been able to navigate as a staff.”
She said she had watched the Matildas play against France in the warm-up game, and thought ‘this is a well-oiled machine’.
The Matildas have played like a well-oiled machine under Gustavsson, despite the absence of Kerr. Credit: AAP
“(I remember thinking) they’re going to make a deep run in this tournament,” she said.
“You could just see it, the way they stepped together and moved together. It just reminded me a lot of our (USA) team in 2019. We were a very well-oiled machine, prepared for any situation.”
The chance to coach the four-time World Cup champion US team, historically the most successful and best-funded in women’s soccer, will draw a long list of applicants, and undoubtedly put Australia on high alert.
But there will be some comfort that Gustavsson is under contract with the Matildas through to the Paris Olympics.
Meanwhile, USA Soccer president Cindy Parlow Cone thanked Vlatko for his services.
“We want to extend our deepest gratitude to Vlatko for his dedication to the women’s national team,” she said in a statement.
“We know he will continue to contribute to the growth of the women’s game in the United States and wish him well in his future endeavours.”
Andonovski resigned after a disappointing tournament. Credit: AP
Twila Kilgore will serve as the team’s temporary head coach as US Soccer begins the search for a permanent replacement.
Kilgore (formerly Kaufman) served as an assistant coach for the past year and a half, and in 2021 became the first American-born woman to earn US Soccer’s Pro-Coaching Licence.
Already qualified for next summer’s Paris Olympics, the US will begin preparations for the tournament with a pair of friendlies next month.
The federation hasn’t officially tipped its hand on a possible successor for Vlatko, yet.
Among the most attractive candidates is England coach Sarina Wiegman, who took the Lionesses to a European championship last year and has them in the World Cup final this year.
However, she is under contract to England, and should she want to leave, buying her out is likely to be difficult and expensive.
Other options include OL Reign coach Laura Harvey, a three-time NWSL coach of the year who narrowly lost to Andonovski in the coaching search four years ago.
– With AAP