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Yalla Shoot :Tony Gustavsson rues making changes too late in Matildas’ shock defeat to Nigeria | Women’s World Cup 2023

Australia coach Tony Gustavsson insisted he was not disappointed by the Matildas’ performance, despite his injury-hit team’s shock 3-2 loss to Nigeria, and the Swede remains hopeful captain Sam Kerr will be fit to face Canada in what is now a do-or-die clash early next week.

After losing Kerr to a calf injury before last week’s first game and Mary Fowler to concussion during the week – and with Kyah Simon still not match fit – there were questions about where Australia’s goals would come from against Nigeria.

Emily van Egmond, who came into the side in place of Fowler, stepped up to open the scoring just before half-time, while defender Alanna Kennedy netted a late consolation deep into injury time in Brisbane.

“We showed tonight if you look at our attacking game that we can stay still play the way we want to play, we created enough chances to score even more goals,” Gustavsson said. “We scored two goals, so the attacking game was actually much improved compared to the to the Ireland game, which I’m happy about. I’m actually not that disappointed about the performance, but I’m disappointed about the result.”

But the coach said they did not win enough second balls in the midfield which proved decisive, and leaves his side now needing to beat Olympic champions Canada to progress from Group B into the knockout phase of the tournament.

“The second ball game cost us three goals,” he said. “We knew that Nigeria had some very good attacking threats and it was costly for us tonight.”

With just eight minutes left in regular time and two goals down, Gustavsson took off winger Cortnee Vine and brought on veteran centre-back Clare Polkinghorne to allow Kennedy to push forward, while also substituting Hayley Raso for Alex Chidiac.

The changes brought about renewed attacking energy for Australia and resulted in Kennedy’s goal in the 10th minute of injury time, but Gustavsson acknowledged he may not have timed the substitutions quite right.

“In terms of late subs … that’s something I need to look at as a coach: did I find the right timing for the subs tonight?” he said. “We did get a massive effect positively when we did it. Do we get that because I did it in the right moment or should I have done it earlier and we could have played longer with that positive effect?

“I’m going to review it whether I did it too late or not because [Chidiac] was brilliant when she came in.”

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Gustavsson was light on the details when it came to whether Kerr would take to the pitch in Monday’s crunch match against Canada in Melbourne.

“All I can say now is that I hope so,” he said. “I most likely will not get a confirmation on that until the night before the game. And then we’ll go from there. It might even be where we need to test her to see if she can play on game day. That’s how tight it is.”

He said he knew Kerr would “of course” insist on playing the crucial game even if she was not 100% ready.

“That’s going to be her mindset, and that’s what I love with Sam, she’s going to do anything she can to be out there. I know that she wants to be out there and she deserves to be out there,” he said. “If she’s available, we just need to come up with a plan together … to see what’s the best to maximise the potential minutes that she has going into this game.”

Nigeria’s coach Randy Waldrum said there was so much singing and dancing in the team room he struggled get a word in, as his as his team took a big step towards qualifying for the last 16 for just the third time, after 2019 and 1999.

“I’m so proud of these players because so many people didn’t believe in the team,” he said. “To think that we’ve come in here and gotten two results out of two top teams in the world says a lot to not only our ability, but to the heart and the competitive desire that the team has.”

Gustavsson said he was surprised before the game to see Barcelona forward Asisat Oshoala on the bench, but Waldrum said it was necessary to manage his star player’s game time.

“She’s come to the World Cup off of a long injury,” he said. “We played her longer than we probably wanted to against Canada. So we had to manage her minutes today, but I thought she did a great job when she came on.”

If Nigeria can beat Ireland in their final group match on Monday, they will progress to the knockout stage of the tournament, despite challenges posed by off-field disputes with the country’s football body over pay.

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