Australia name Tony Gustavsson as Matildas coach

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Football Federation Australia has appointed former USWNT assistant Tony Gustavsson as Matildas head coach, the organisation announced on Tuesday.

The announcement comes just 10 weeks after Ante Milicic departed the role to honour his commitment to A-League debutants Macarthur FC.

"I feel that my 21 years of coaching have put me in the position to be ready for this," Gustavsson said in a statement.

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"I have always said that the Matildas have the potential to be one of the best teams in the world and that is one of the reasons that I wanted to get on board with this job. I have been in the pressure cooker a lot of times and in environments that demand success. These experiences will be beneficial as we do this together with the fans, the stakeholders, the players, and the staff as a team."

In what reportedly came down to a two-horse race between Gustavsson and Italian legend Carolina Morace, it was the Swede by a nose, snaring the job which will see him lead the Australian women's national team through four major campaigns -- the postponed Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021 as well as Paris 2024, the 2022 AFC Asian Cup and the 2023 Women's World Cup.

Despite never having held the top job at international level, the 47-year-old is no stranger to the pressure-cooker environment of the global game -- widely touted as the tactical nous behind the success of the United States women's national team as they hoovered up World Cup trophies in 2015 and 2019, and Olympic Gold in London 2012.

His knowledge of the all-conquering U.S. side as well as his native Sweden and other key European nations will serve the Matildas well, as they strive for football's holy grail -- a World Cup title.

New Zealand women's head coach, Tom Sermanni, who also had a stint as head of the USWNT and led the Matildas to their first major silverware at the AFC Asian Cup in 2010 told ESPN that he believes FFA has made a good decision.

"I met him in Sweden during the European Championship and tried to recruit him to come and work with us in the U.S. at the time," Sermanni told ESPN.

"He came into one camp, I think it was actually when we played Australia, he has a strong football background, but most importantly from a coaching and management perspective he's a great appointment.

"He's better than a career No. 2 and now has the knowledge and experience to make that next step."

Assistant to fellow Swede Pia Sundhage with the USWNT in 2012, Gustavsson did not follow his compatriot when she left to coach Sweden later that year. He was a contender for the top job in the U.S. when Sermanni stepped down in 2014, but he became the right-hand man to successful applicant Jill Ellis for five years.

Gustavsson was born in Sundsvall, Sweden, and was somewhat of a journeyman through his 16-year playing career, mainly in his home country, aside from a one-year diversion to USISL Premier League club Orlando Lions.

His coaching career began while still a player at Swedish second-division club Ytterhogdals IK.

He would go on to coach various Swedish men's teams -- Degerfors IF, Hammarby IF and Kongsvinger IL -- but his first foray into women's club football was with Tyreso FF.

His predecessor at Tyreso, Hans Löfgren, is credited with taking the club from the third division to the top flight through signings such as Brazilian legend Marta and Swedish star Caroline Seger, but it was Gustavsson who took the side to a first-division (Damallsvenskan) title and reached a UEFA Women's Champions League final in 2014, recruiting the likes of Christen Press, Ali Krieger, Ashlyn Harris, Meghan Klingenberg and Whitney Engen from the USWNT.

Gustavsson has been back on the coaching staff at Swedish top-flight club Hammarby IF since parting ways with the USWNT last year.

Sources say the preference of FFA was to have a Matildas coach with a hands-on role based in Australia but one wonders if the coronavirus pandemic has worked in Gustavsson's favour, with the majority of Australia's top-flight women now based on his side of the globe.

The appointment of Junior Matildas coach Rae Dower as Women's Technical Advisor means the female football program has boots on the ground to observe the burgeoning talent at home, leaving Gustavsson free for the immediate future to concentrate on the cohort plying their trade in Europe.

His first Matildas camp is expected to be in Europe in November, and the new boss will be more than ready to make his mark.

With a wealth of experience lifting trophies as an assistant, this is a chance to test himself with an extremely talented generation of Australian women to see if he can replicate that success in his own right.