Matildas need WC clarity: Barbieri

Ed Jackson |

Tony Gustavsson’s tenure as Matildas coach is under question after an early exit from the Asian Cup.
Tony Gustavsson’s tenure as Matildas coach is under question after an early exit from the Asian Cup.

Matildas great Mel Barbieri wants Australia’s Women’s Asian Cup exit to be the catalyst to focusing the national team’s preparations for next year’s World Cup.

Coach Tony Gustavsson’s future in the role is under a microscope after the Matildas’ quarter-final defeat to South Korea in India – Australia’s worst result at the continental tournament since entering the Asian confederation in 2006.

Barbieri, who captained Australia to Asian Cup glory in 2010, said if the Swede is given the chance to stay in the job through to the 2023 World Cup he needs to clarify and commit to his tactics and selections.

“That’s the thing about women’s football. You get four years, you get four years, you stay in there no matter what because you can say I’m building this and I’m building that but in reality, when I was watching the girls play, I can’t see any traits,” Barbieri told AAP.

“If I was scouting for South Korea for that game, I wouldn’t be able to actually tell you what certain game plans are.

“A lot of the time you say ‘OK, they like to do this, they like to do that,’ but when you’re watching them, it’s really haphazard.

“Probably the only thing I can see is that our six drops out into the wing position and then we push players high and we kind of rotate a bit, but that’s about it.

“The time for experimenting is over. That was evident in the lead up and in the beginning stages of the tournament, experimenting is no longer an option.”

Under Gustavsson, the Matildas have played 20 matches, winning just six and losing 10, fielding over 35 players with more than 40 individuals experiencing time in various squads.

In that period Australia have handed debuts to 15 players including first caps for 23-year-old Cortnee Vine and teenager Holly McNamara during the Asian Cup.

Barbieri says selections have been too scattergun while the absence of experienced pros in their mid-20s such as Angie Beard, Emma Checker and Clare Hunt have been disappointing.

“It’s almost like the mid-20s are being skipped for the teenagers and those are the things that really bite you in the butt,” she said.

“When it comes time, it’s those players that are battle hardened, that have been disappointed by not making the national team, that when they get their opportunity they’re resilient enough to go ‘this is my my time’.

She was also confused by the decision lure 36-year-old Aivi Luik out of retirement for the tournament.

“I love Aivi Luik but the girl’s retired, you pull her out of retirement, for what?,” Barbieri said.

“I would like to see a plan. A style of play.

“People playing in their correct positions and if you need somebody in a different position, you get the ones that play in that position, all over the world.”