Who is Tony Gustavsson, the Matildas’ Swedish World Cup coach?

Back in 2020, when Australia were announced as co-hosts for the 2023 Women's World Cup, Football Australia got to work immediately on preparing the team for the tournament. The Matilda's coach at the time, Ante Milicic, was under pressure after the team's poor showing at the 2019 World Cup and ultimately agreed to leave his post not long after the hosting announcement.

Although Milcic said at the time that his decision was due to the fact the Olympics had been pushed back a year, many people believe he was ushered out the door to make way for a fresh face who would lead them into their home World Cup. That person, as it turned out, was Tony Gustavsson who signed a contract with Football Australia until the looming World Cup.

Tony Gustavsson: The road to the Australian job

As a player, Gustavsson enjoyed a career in the lower leagues of Swedish football but always seemed destined to have a more fulfilling career as a coach. His managerial career started at Ytterhogdals IK, a club in the fourth tier of Swedish football where the Swede had enjoyed two stints as a player. After three years with the club, he moved to Degerfors IF in the third tier as an Assistant Manager.

After helping the team to promotion in his debut season, the Swede was handed the keys to the top job. After another impressive campaign, the top league in Sweden came calling and he moved to Hammarby IF for three seasons. After relegation in his final season, he was sacked which is when he decided to test his coaching skills in the Women's game.

In 2012, he landed two jobs. Firstly, he was named as the USA's assistant manager and secondly, he was unveiled as the Tyreso FF boss. He led the team to their first Damallsvenkskan title in 2012 and also took them all the way to the Women's Champions League Final in 2014 where they lost out to Wolfsburg in a seven-goal thriller.

After Tyreo FF went bust due to financial complications, Gustavsson seemingly retired from being a manager. He returned to the USA Women's National Team as an Assistant Manager in 2014 and remained in that post until 2019, helping them to World Cup glory in both 2015 and 2019. It was his work with the Americans that attracted the attention of Football Australia in 2020.

Tony Gustavsson's Australia: A mixed bag

Considering he played a key role in the American dominance of the women's game throughout the mid-2010's, big things were expected of Gustavsson when he took on the job as Australia Women's manager. Unfortunately for the Swede, however, things haven't been plain sailing so far.

His first major tournament at the helm was the Olympic Games in 2021 and the Matilda's made it all the way to the semi-finals despite a poor showing in the group stages. The highlight of the tournament was a the 4-3 victory over Great Britain in the quarter-finals which captured the hearts of the Australian public. Ther result of that was 2.32m Aussies – a record for women's sport in Australia – tuning in for their semi-final defeat to Sweden.

After the Olympics, they played a series against the US which resulted in a defeat and a draw. Despite the poor results, interest in the women's game was continuing to grow with 36,000 people turning out to support the Matildas in Sydney and 20,000 turning out in Newcastle.

At the 2022 Asian Cup, they once again flattered to deceive and crashed out in the quarter-finals to eventual winners, South Korea. Earlier in the tournament, however, Gustavsson led them to an 18-0 victory over Indonesia – a record win for the team.

Heading into the 2023 World Cup, Australia's record under Gustavsson stands at 16 wins, 5 draws, and 14 losses leaving him with a win percentage of 43%. If that win percentage stands at over 50% in a month's time, then all of the bumps in the road would have been worth it.

Andy is a freelance Sports Journalist with ten years of experience covering football in the United Kingdom and abroad for various publications including the Manchester Evening News, UtdReport and Football Whispers. Andy also has a keen interest in basketball, cricket, golf and tennis and has covered major sporting events such as the Masters in Augusta.