Veteran midfielder casts off speculation over head coach Tony Gustavsson as Australian squad prepare to face Canada.
The Matildas will end 2023 with the start of a new era, midfielder Emily van Egmond has pledged, aiming to take a new brand of football to the Olympics.
Despite key absentees for the two-match series with Canada, Australia will find “little nuances” ahead of the Olympic play-off with Uzbekistan in February, Van Egmond said – and, if all goes to plan, into the actual Games in Paris in August.
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A detailed review of the FIFA Women’s World Cup campaign that took the Matildas to the semi-finals highlighted the need to play a more controlled style – music to the ears of an attacking midfielder like Van Egmond.
Buoyed by her immediate impact for Newcastle Jets in a short-term A-Leagues deal, Van Egmond said the Australian squad is ignoring the speculation around the future of coach Tony Gustavsson – heavily linked with the vacant Swedish men’s head coaching role – and expects him to lead them to the Olympics.
Van Egmond is likely to be at the forefront as Gustavsson tries to finesse his team’s gameplan, especially with superstar captain Sam Kerr among those absent – just as happened at the World Cup.
“We had a review of the World Cup and our performance and we’ve identified and highlighted a few areas that we would look to keep building on and to keep getting better at,” the midfielder explained.
“Our first effort at doing that was in Perth, we had the three-game series for the start of (Olympic) qualification and now there’s no better way now to test ourselves than against Canada as the reigning gold medallist.
“So for us it’s looking to build on all those things and take them into the New Year. I love playing that way and we’ve got an unbelievable squad.
“We’ve got such a good understanding now of what’s expected of us. For us to take ourselves to the next level is to keep adding little nuances to our game and, and I believe this is going to be key to the preparation for our Olympic qualification (games).
“This is our last camp of the year as well so we want finish on a high and get as much as we can out of this window.”
Debate continues to rage around Gustavsson’s future, after he missed out on the US women’s team head coaching role, but has – according to reports in Sweden – been interviewed for their men’s senior role.
“For us, we just focus on ourselves and the team and what we have ahead, which is the main focus of qualifying for the Olympics and obviously these two friendlies against Canada,” Van Egmond said.
“We get on with it, we have a job to do and as far as we’re concerned, he’s taking us to the Olympic Games if we qualify.”
The midfielder – who has scored in her first two games at Newcastle – is more concerned with smoothing the entry of new faces such as Sarah Hunter and Charlie Rule, as Gustavsson looks to freshen up the periphery of his squad.
“Coming into a new environment is always a little bit tough, but I think for them, my message would be just to enjoy it,” Van Egmond said.
“You never know when you’re going to get the chance again. Obviously you’re here for a reason, you’ve been picked because you’ve been doing well.
“So just to keep enjoying it and doing the best you can.”
On the electric start to her four-game guest stint in the Liberty A-League, Van Egmond said: “Yeah, look, I go back to Newcastle and I have two more games, so I’m, I’m really excited for that. I’m looking forward to it.
“It’s been really enjoyable for myself to be back home. You know, we’ve got a good group of girls there eager to learn.
“And yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s been really enjoyable for me.”