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“We are winners no matter what”: Australia looking forward to 3rd place match

Is the 3rd place match at the World Cup really just an unloved consolation prize? Australia’s Sam Kerr speaks rather of a “great thing”. Her coach Tony Gustavsson is facing a special duel.

The match for third place at World Championships is often criticised by many, after all, the point of a World Cup is to crown the best team in the world. And that happens in the final. What’s more, in the so-called “small final” two teams meet whose dreams of winning the title have been shattered so close to the finish line. The bronze medal? For many teams, only a small consolation.

But not for Australia. They may not have been able to write the whole big fairytale at their home World Cup, but reaching the semi-finals was still a historic success for Australian football – just as the match for third place is now. “We are very proud to be here,” Sam Kerr said at the press conference in Brisbane on Friday. “A third place would be a great thing for us and a great thing for this country. It’s extra motivation to leave a great legacy. To finish third at a Women’s World Cup is something you can only dream of as a kid.”

The anticipation in his team is correspondingly palpable, revealed coach Tony Gustavsson, adding, “Of course we were disappointed after the last game, probably just like the Swedish team. But it’s now about channelling those emotions in the right way to use them for tomorrow’s game.” The 50-year-old had already made it clear immediately after the final whistle of the semi-final against England (1:3) that he does not want to leave the tournament empty-handed.

Game against his home country “really special” for Gustavsson

However, the duel with Sweden is doubly important for Gustavsson, after all it is against the country of his birth. A situation he is already more familiar with than he would like: “For some reason I had to learn how to play against Sweden in a tournament. It’s been like that almost every tournament, even when I was part of the US team,” joked the coach, who was an assistant on Jill Ellis’ coaching staff at the four-time world champions from 2014 to 2019, but then added: “It’s really special, I have to say. I have a lot of good friends in this team, both among the players and the coaching staff.”

However, he said, his special relationship with the opposition would not change anything – that was as true for him as it was for his players: “Sam and the others have very good friends on the other side, but when the game starts, it’s 90 minutes of football and every single one of us, whether it’s Sweden or us, will do everything we can to win the game.” For Kerr, for example, it will be against her Chelsea team-mate Zecira Musovic, who has caused a stir in the Scandinavians’ goal with strong saves. “I’m really happy for her,” the Matildas captain said, adding with a smile: “Hopefully she won’t play like that tomorrow.”

Kerr showed that she could still score a goal for the Swedes against the Lionesses, when she put the ball into the corner from 25 metres – even though it was the 29-year-old’s first World Cup match in which she was able to play from the start. A calf injury suffered shortly before the tournament had relegated her to the bench for the entire preliminary round. “At some point during the tournament I thought I might never play in this World Cup, and now it’s icing on the cake to be able to be on the pitch and help the girls. “

Kerr: World Cup was the “best four weeks of our career “

At least one personnel issue should already be settled, whereby the 50-year-old generally relies on continuity in his team. This also means that players like Charlotte Grant, Courtney Nevin and Clare Wheeler will probably not make their first World Cup appearance. “If it was about emotion, these players would play because they deserve it,” Gustavsson explained, “but I can’t choose based on emotion. It’s not about giving players experience just for the sake of experience, it’s about winning the game.” Especially as Katrina ‘Mini’ Gorry is available again after a knock to her thigh, he said.

However, Gustavsson will still have to do without Alanna Kennedy, who is out with concussion symptoms, as she was against England. This is a bitter loss, as the centre-back “played her best tournament and showed an excellent performance in both defence and attack.” The 28-year-old is likely to be replaced by record-breaking player Clare Polkinghorne, who could play an important role with “her experience and mental strength” as Gustavsson expects a very physical game.

“There are many similarities between Sweden and us,” he said. Both teams are very well organised defensively, but also strong in attacking transition play, on the wings as well as in wide areas, he added, and are also among the best in the world in set-piece situations. “The team that can win these duels will probably also win the match.”

Kerr made no secret of the fact that a victory against Sweden and winning the bronze medal would of course be the crowning glory of “probably the best four weeks of our career”. However, even in defeat, the World Cup would end on a high note: “We owe that feeling of ‘we’re winners no matter what’ to the fans. It really feels like we’ve brought the nation together through football. “

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