Tony Gustavsson, the experienced former US women’s national team assistant coach, will lead the Matildas to a World Cup on home soil after Football Federation Australia confirmed his appointment as Ante Milicic’s successor on Tuesday evening.
The Swede, 47, has signed a deal that runs through to 2024 with a remit to extract the best from Australia’s so-called golden generation during an upcoming period crammed full of major international tournaments.
Gustavsson was selected after the completion of a “robust and well-governed process” that was undertaken following Milicic’s departure in July and overseen by a selection panel headed by FFA chief executive James Johnson.
Johnson said Gustavsson’s knowledge of the global football landscape, his experience of major tournaments and success both at a domestic and international level would be invaluable in his new role.
“We believe that in Tony, we have appointed a coach who will not only surpass the benchmarks and criteria we set as an organisation, but the standards that are expected by our players, football community and fans,” Johnson said.
“Throughout the process it was evident that Tony is eager to buy in to what we are working to build with the Matildas – a uniquely Australian team with a strong identity that is recognised as world class both on and off the pitch.”
Along with the 2023 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, Gustavsson will head the Matildas’ charge towards silverware at next year’s delayed Tokyo Olympics, the 2022 Asian Cup in India and the 2024 Olympics in Paris.
Given the opportunities presented by the next four-year cycle – and the expectations placed upon a talented crop of players led by Sam Kerr – the high-profile role is arguably one of the biggest jobs in Australian sport.
Gustavsson arrives well-credentialed to do it justice. He is currently first-team coach at Hammarby IF in the men’s top flight in his native Sweden – where he will remain until the end of the year – but it is in the women’s game where he has earned his reputation as an astute tactician.
As Jill Ellis’s assistant, he was an integral part of the US team’s rise to dominance on the world stage and helped them to consecutive World Cup triumphs – in Canada in 2015 and again last year in France.
He had held that role previously, winning Olympic gold in 2012 when he worked under compatriot Pia Sundhage. And in 2014, as head coach of Swedish club Tyresö FF, he guided a star-studded side all the way to the Champions League final in 2014.
“I feel that my 21 years of coaching have put me in the position to be ready for this,” Gustavsson said. “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.”
FFA has been searching for a new coach since Milicic’s decision to step down in July, when he cited the delay to the Tokyo Olympics and his pre-existing commitment to take over at A-League expansion side Macarthur FC as the reasons for his departure.
Ellis is believed to have headed an initial list of candidates, while the names of Women’s Super League coaches Joe Montemurro of Arsenal and Chelsea’s Emma Hayes were also linked to the job. Ultimately, it came down to a two-horse race between Gustavsson and former Canada coach Carolina Morace of Italy.
Gustavsson is seen as a tight cultural fit for the Matildas, a team that has experienced its fair share of internal turmoil over recent years, given the manner the departure of Milicic’s predecessor, Alen Stajcic.
“We want to elevate our Matildas even further as a unifying symbol of the game to inspire all Australians, young and old,” Johnson said. “We believe that the combination of Tony’s persona and his experience make him the right person to help us do this.”
Gustavsson, who also enjoyed a 15-year professional career as a player, was selected by an advisory panel comprising Johnson, former international players Mark Bresciano, Sarah Walsh and Amy Duggan, board member Remo Nogarotto and national technical director Trevor Morgan.
He will formally take the reins at the turn of the year, but will get a first look at his new squad during a proposed Europe-based training camp in November.