Matildas warned against getting carried away ahead of second Brazil test

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Tony Gustavsson wore a Matildas scarf in the dugout on Saturday night. Given the overall pleasant temperature in Parramatta, the sartorial choice indicated the Swede is clearly a fan of his still relatively new national team. But Australia’s manager is not a blind cheerleader. He leaves that for the masses. And as the players and the crowd at CommBank Stadium made known their pleasure at having witnessed an assertive 3-1 friendly win, Gustavsson made a point of ensuring his appraisal was balanced.

“When we say things are really bad maybe they’re not as bad as they are, and when we say they’re good maybe they’re not as good as they are,” he said. “We need to remember that we’re playing a Brazil team that is rebuilding right now, with a lot of debutantes and a completely new team, also with Marta and Debinha on the bench most of the time.

Related: Matildas sweep aside external pressure and Brazil in statement performance

“I think we need to balance this performance a little bit. Is there some impressive things in there, some things I’m happy with? Yes, but we need to stay humble and realise we still have a lot of work to do.”

The victory – the Matildas’ third on Gustavsson’s watch – was aesthetically pleasing. It was up-tempo. The goals were quality. Mary Fowler’s upward trajectory is getting so steep she needs a safety harness and Kyra Cooney-Cross, remarkably composed under pressure for a 19-year-old, appears to be a long-term answer to the side’s deeper-lying midfield question.

The issue, once again, was in defence, where errant passes and lapses in concentration allowed Adriana to score in the second half and Brazil numerous opportunities to counter-attack. Pia Sundhage’s outfit will know this leading into Tuesday night’s second friendly.

Defence has been a talking point for the Matildas for some time and well before Gustavsson took charge. During his tenure conceding goals remains the sticking point, the mismatch with the team’s attacking class. The bleed continued into last month’s 3-2 loss to the Republic of Ireland, during which a failure to track opponents off corners and free-kicks contributed to an overall sense of disorganisation.

On Saturday Brazil, a national team very much in transition in terms of personnel, were unable to muster more than a sole consolation goal despite the end-to-end nature of the contest. The world’s top six nations will be less forgiving, and many of those will stand in Australia’s way at the 2023 World Cup, a tournament they will be almost expected to win on home soil.

But Gustavsson is clearly still experimenting with his defensive set-up, and on Saturday moved away from his often-favoured back three to a back four, acknowledging this area of the game remains a work in progress.

“We did a little bit of a formation change,” Gustavsson said. “We said we wanted to be flexible in our formation. Your identity doesn’t sit in your formation, it’s about what you do.

“We are always going to be a pressing team and we’ll always be attacking-minded. I do think we got dispossessed in bad areas and they were dangerous in transition. I think we could have cost ourselves a couple of goals. We were lucky to be honest, we still have some things to clean up. It was a step in the right direction.”

Emily van Egmond celebrates after scoring in the Matildas’ 3-1 win over Brazil on Saturday.
Emily van Egmond celebrates after scoring in the Matildas’ 3-1 win over Brazil on Saturday. Photograph: Matt King/Getty Images

Gustavsson also signalled some changes but suggested he would not move the magnets for the sake of it.

“We’ll take look at risk versus reward and how many minutes they can play,” he said. “You will probably see a balance of consistency and cohesion … I want to see a team that steps on the park and can show we can deliver a performance back-to-back and play with the same intensity, energy, commitment and mindset.

Related: Australia 3-1 Brazil: women’s football friendly – as it happened

“It’s a game where I want to not just say: ‘hey we got that win’. Complacency [comes in], a bit of rotation and then all of a sudden, the game becomes something different. This is an important game to keep rebuilding and I want to see that mindset [on Tuesday].”

Among those who may get a start could be playmaker Emily van Egmond, who scored the Matildas’ third goal on Saturday off the bench and assisted Mary Fowler for the second.

“It’s impressive that she came in and performed that way because she’s not been training at club level for a long time after the Olympics,” Gustavsson said. “That’s one of the reasons she started on the bench.

“She got a good training week with us, then she came on in the second half and got that goal but also the assist as well. Going to a 4-3-3 we can put her higher up the park and she can float in that area between opponents’ midfield and backline. She can have those late runs into the box that we’ve seen her score from before.”

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