Matildas at training.
The Matildas face a gruelling training schedule in the lead-up to the Paris Olympics. Image by James Ross/AAP PHOTOS
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Matildas face brutal preparation for Olympic medal tilt

June 12, 2024

Coach Tony Gustavsson has outlined his meticulous and brutal game plan to have the Matildas “flying” for their all-important Paris Olympics opener against Germany.

Australia’s golden generation are determined to come away from this Olympics with a medal, after finishing fourth in Tokyo and at last year’s World Cup.

That mission starts with a tough group-stage campaign against Germany on July 25, Zambia on July 28 and the United States on July 31 (all local time).

Gustavsson has carefully plotted to have his 18-player squad, plus four reserve players, fit and firing for the tightly condensed tournament – which could be his last at the helm.

But with his players scattered throughout the world, with different schedules and workloads, Gustavsson’s planning also has to be flexible.

Matildas players at training.
 Australia’s players are scattered throughout the world, but will all take part in team training. Image by James Ross/AAP PHOTOS 

The season is still under way for San Diego Wave pair Emily van Egmond and Kaitlyn Torpey, as well as Sweden-based Clare Polkinghorne, while Hayley Raso is about to complete her campaign with Real Madrid.

England-based stars such as Caitlin Foord, Steph Catley, Mary Fowler, Kyra Cooney-Cross and Mackenzie Arnold, plus defenders Ellie Carpenter and Clare Hunt – who play their club football in France – recently wrapped up their seasons.

A-League Women trio Cortnee Vine, Michelle Heyman and Tameka Yallop all finished up more than a month ago.

“It actually looks very different for every individual,” Gustavsson told fans at a Vivid Sydney forum.

“Some players have come off playing consecutive for 18 months. 

“They need a mental break or a bit of physical recharge to go back into what we call a gap plan, meaning there’s a gap between this national window and us coming into the next FIFA window – and that gap is very individualised.

“Some players have a break and then an individual lead-in program so they are fit coming into July 1 and are going to train really hard.

“Some players are actually in season, like the players based in the US and Sweden, and went straight back into the league and are playing and will come to the camp.

“Then some players have opposite, meaning they finished the season almost two months ago and haven’t played consecutive football for a long time.

“So they’re all in individual plans, and then the beginning of July we get together in a pre-camp.”

Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson.
 Coach Tony Gustavsson must remain flexible as he prepares for the Paris Olympics. Image by Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS 

This is where things get brutal.

The Matildas will be effectively in each others’ pockets as they work through an arduous training camp.

Australia can play two friendlies in the international window between July 8 and 16 and should lock in at least one, depending on the quality of opponents available.

Gustavsson conceded that might mean the Matildas wouldn’t be in peak form during those friendlies – but he has the bigger picture in mind.

“It will be a three-week camp where it’s very, very intense,” he said. 

“It will be double sessions or triple sessions, gym sessions, running sessions, football sessions to make sure that we are peaking on July 25.

“And so there will be some heavy legs going through some games in the FIFA window in July.

“But then, come July 25, mentally and physically we fly.”