Up against the world No.2 nation, missing a couple of his key defenders and pulling together a squad for their first fixture in over a year, you could forgive new Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson for wanting some breathing space ahead of his opening match in charge.
Not the Swiss coach, however, who spoke of the need for the Matildas to follow the lead of their biggest name, Sam Kerr, and show some “mental toughness” ahead of Sunday morning’s (AEST) match against Germany in Wiesbaden.
“Someone said to me that, ‘Tony, do you know this might be one of the toughest games that the Matildas ever played?’” Gustavsson said.
“I said, what do you mean? ‘Well, look at the players not available, they haven’t played [together] in 400 days, they have a new coach, it’s hailing when you’re practising, there’s players not available to play in different positions and so forth.’ I could stand here and give you excuses to say, result-wise, we don’t expect to do well.
“We’re not wired that way. We’re the Matildas. No matter what we’re going to go out there and do everything we can to wear that crest on our chest and play our best.”
Watch Every Match of The 2020/21 Westfield W-League Season Live & On-Demand on Kayo. New to Kayo? Try 14-Days Free Now >
If coming together in under a week for the first time since their Tokyo Olympic qualifier more than a year ago wasn’t already difficult enough, the Matildas have lost key defender Ellie Carpenter as well as Amy Harrison.
The duo was ruled out following a COVID-19 outbreak at their respective French clubs in Lyon and Eindhoven.
It places greater strain on a squad who don’t have anyone from the W-League because of the difficulties associated with travelling at present.
But Gustavsson said there were multiple solutions to work around the different squad he has to work with.
Get all the latest football news, highlights and analysis delivered straight to your inbox with Fox Sports Sportmail. Sign up now!!!
Any squad with Kerr in it though provides a threat and Gustavsson said it was a “pure pleasure” coaching her, but didn’t wish to heap further pressure on the Chelsea star after the Australian captain was described in some quarters as the best striker in the world.
“We had a couple of really, really good talks, in training you can see she’s busting, and how much she appreciates coming back in playing for the Matildas again. It’s just a pure pleasure,” he said.
“I do know that she also has a very, very high ambition of always trying to strive to be one day better, and that’s what we’re going to focus on. And then it’s up to others to say whether she’s the best in the world or not.
“Is she in form? Yes, and we have a lot of forwards in form right now coming into camp. That itself is really exciting going into the Germany game.”
Earlier, Kerr, who has fired 10 goals in her past six outings including a hat-trick in her last match for Chelsea, gave her new coach an early endorsement after finally getting to play under him.
“He’s a nice guy, smiley guy,” Kerr said. “We haven’t had too much to do with him as of yet because it’s only been one session and the whole squad’s not in. But he seems like a really positive guy, seems like he knows his stuff and seems very to the point.
“I think he’s going to fit in well not only with the team off the field, but on the field, I think he’s what we need.
“It’s exciting. We have a new coach, a lot of new players in the team. It just feels good to be back in the Matildas gear and see all the girls again. It’s been difficult, especially seeing other national teams being able to do things, but we’ve got to make the most of the opportunities we have now.”
Ranked seventh on the world rankings, Sunday’s match will give Gustavvson an early indication of where his side sits against Germany and then No.4 Netherlands next Wednesday.