Debuts do not get much tougher than playing the two-time world and defending Olympic champions, but that is the challenge facing new Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson after Football Australia announced a fixture against Germany next month.
The game in Wiesbaden on 11 April will be first time Gustavsson gets a chance to run the rule over his side since taking the reins of the national team in September last year – and the first time the Matildas have played for more than 12 months.
The last time Australia took to the field was in the 2-1 win over Vietnam last March that secured Olympic qualification, and the looming test against Germany, currently ranked second in the world, will serve as good preparation for the Tokyo Games starting in July.
Gustavsson will be joined in the dugout by Mel Andreatta, who will also make her debut as assistant in the new-look coaching set-up, and the Swede said finally getting his squad together after the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic – and the calibre of opposition – was a fillip ahead of the Olympics.
“It is important for our development as a team that we take on quality opponents often to measure our progress and build strong foundations for the next three years,” said Gustavsson. “Consistent matches against highly ranked teams are key to our ability to reach our full potential, and I am looking forward to this first challenge.
“I would like to express my gratitude to Football Australia’s management for their enthusiasm and willingness to engage and invest in elite opposition for the team. Although it has been a significant period since the team was last together, we have continued our preparations in innovative ways and now I am eager to get the group assembled and to work together towards Tokyo.”
Australia and Germany last met at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, when the spoils were shared in a thrilling match 2-2 draw that the Matildas were considered unlucky not to have won. One of the goalscorers that day in Sao Paulo – the in-form Sam Kerr – will be expected to lead out the side in Germany, but players based in Australia will not be eligible to be selected in the squad, due to Covid safety protocols.
The game, which will kick off at 12.05am Australian time, will be played behind closed doors and all players and staff will operate under strict protocols. Football Australia, which has also reached an agreement to host Germany in the build-up to the 2023 World Cup in Australian and New Zealand, is seeking to secure another fixture in Europe during April’s international window.