The millions invested in the English team showed heartbreaking dividends for Australia on Wednesday night and the Matildas coach wants to match them.
Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson says the unprecedented success of the World Cup “needs to be the start of something” and has called on the federal government to increase funding to ensure Australia builds on its semi-final run.
After the heartbreaking 3-1 to semi-final loss to England, the best World Cup result for any Australian team, male or female, Gustavsson said the increased financial backing was crucial to keep pace with the rest of the world.
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Prime Minister Anthony Albanese floated the idea of a public holiday on Monday if the Matildas won the final, but players and officials are calling on the government to do something more meaningful by upping its financial support to ensure the past few weeks don’t go to waste.
“They and the generations before them have worked hard to be in this moment,” Gustavsson said of his players after Wednesday’s heartbreaking defeat.
“It’s a bit emotional to sit here and talk about that when you lose a semi-final because I hate to lose, but football is bigger than 90 minutes.
“We’re very disappointed in the loss, but hopefully we won something else. We won the hearts and the passion for this game in this country.
“This is not the end of something; this needs to be the start of something, and with that comes money as well.”
Superstar captain Sam kerr said more funding could the major factor in taking the next step and winning a major trophy.
“We are there, we‘re right there,” Kerr said after the defeat.
“I can only speak for the Matildas. We need funding in our development. We need funding in our grassroots. We need funding. We need funding everywhere.
“The comparison to other sports isn‘t really good enough. And hopefully this tournament changes that because that’s the legacy you leave — not not what you do on the pitch. The legacy is what you do off the pitch.
“And hopefully, I mean, it‘s hard to talk about now, but hopefully that this is the start of something new.”
Reaching the semi-final seems like an overachievement in most people’s eyes, but Gustavsson says this should become the norm if things are put in place to nurture talent from the grassroots level all the way to the top.
“I don’t think it’s too early, but I also think it’s also just the beginning of something, and if we see that investment that we talked about and we keep growing the game together (then things will only improve),” he said.
“Right now we’re maximising the resources that we have, whether it’s the players, the work we do in club land or whether it’s grassroots football, the return on investment we have right now is unique, meaning very good.
“But let’s invest more and be genuine contenders for medals in tournaments moving forward.”
England coach Sarina Wiegman has reaped the rewards back home with the Women’s Super League elevating professionalism and providing a competitive environment that has taken their star players to the next level.
She has seen an incredible growth in support for the women’s game in just a few short weeks in Australia, but has urged key stakeholders to not let this opportunity pass them by.
“I spoke to a lady yesterday, and she said at the beginning of the tournament that some people didn’t know (it was on), but when Australia kept getting further in the tournament, everyone was watching,” she said.
“You walk into a store and the front page of the newspaper is all about the Matildas.
“I think you’ve all seen on a plane that everyone was watching the penalty shootout (against France) and that’s so nice.
“But now Australia has to take the next step – and I don’t have all the context – but how can Australia grow the game for little kids from six to adult football players?
“How can they support them and get better facilities for everyone? I hope this gives a boost and people get interested to support the women’s game.”