Matildas more prepared than Tokyo: Kennedy

Ed Jackson |

The emergence of new talent and more games under Tony Gustavsson have the Matildas better prepared for success at the Women’s Asian Cup than they were for the Olympics, according to experienced defender Alanna Kennedy.

In the first step under Gustavsson on the path to the home 2023 Women’s World Cup, the Matildas made history by finishing fourth at last’s year’s Tokyo Olympics – narrowly missing out on a first medal with a 4-3 loss to the United States in the bronze-medal match.

Since that tournament, Australia have played five friendlies including two matches on home soil each against Brazil and the world champion Americans.

Gustavsson has utilised those matches to inject new blood into Australia’s set up with fresh faces such as Remy Siemsen, Clare Wheeler, Courtney Nevin and Charlotte Grant all featuring under the Swede.

Despite winning just one of those post-Olympic friendlies, Kennedy says the whole squad is more in tune with Gustavsson’s tactics and plans heading into this month’s continental championship in India.

“It feels good … obviously since the Olympics we’ve had a few players come in for experience and so we’re always looking to add to the team,” Kennedy told AAP.

“That’s always good but I think the thing that we’ve been doing as well is just continuing the same tactics and learnings that we had from that tournament.

“Definitely we’ve grown in a couple of areas since then.

“It’s been really good to have so many games and opportunities to learn more from (Gustavsson) and understand him more.

“He’s been here a while now and definitely settled in and we understand his way of coaching and the philosophy that he’s implemented here.

“We’re still building on a few things but definitely moving in the right direction and have a good understanding of what he wants from us as players.”

Amidst the fresh faces for the Women’s Asian Cup, Gustavsson has also selected 36-year-old midfielder Aivi Luik.

The veteran announced her international retirement following the Olympics but accepted the call-up following a conversation with Gustavsson before the squad was announced earlier this month.

Kennedy had no idea Luik was set to make an international return but couldn’t be happier to be reunited with a player who was part of Australia’s 2010 Asian Cup-winning team.

“When we first heard it was (a surprise) but for us she’s a great addition to the group that we have here at the moment,” Kennedy said.

“We’re really grateful that she took that opportunity as well.

“It just speaks to her character and how much she loves playing for her country as well. We’re really happy to have Aivi back here.”