Australian head coach Tony Gustavsson oversees a Westfield Matildas training session - Image by Football Australia Media

Australian head coach Gustavsson hails impact of Chelsea’s Kerr in pressing game

Australia’s head coach Tony Gustavsson has hailed Chelsea forward Sam Kerr for the defensive side of her game which she has taken up for her country.

The 27-year-old is known for her goals and creativity for club and country but national team boss Gustavsson believes that there is so much more to her game.

Ahead of Australia’s Tokyo 2020 warm-up match against Japan in Kyoto tomorrow, Gustavsson said that Kerr’s attacking involvement for the team is increasing but she also adds real value in leading her side’s defensive press.

“You have seen in the Denmark and Sweden games that we made some changes and if you look at the statistics from those two games, we managed to activate Sam much more in the final third and in the box;” Gustavsson said in his pre-match press conference. “She got more chances and she was a crossbar away from scoring a goal against Sweden. We are moving in the right direction to be able to activate Sam more.

“We know that in the Olympics, there is going to be a lot of focus on defending Sam from our opponents. That means that Sam is going to free up space for other players which then makes Sam more important, not just because she is on the ball but she frees up space for other players as well. That is the team attack that we are looking at.

“Sam doesn’t get enough credit for her defending efforts. She is the first defender in our pressing game and one of our best defenders, the way that she leads our pressing game is amazing. When she is the captain working so hard off the ball, she demands so much more from the rest of the team.”

Tomorrow’s game against Japan sees Australia test themselves against the host nation of this summer’s Olympic Games and Gustavsson went on to say how impressed he is with the home team.

He added “I am very impressed with their technical ability, how fast they move the ball and their combination play, they are actually one of the best in the world.

“I am also impressed with how organised the team is in defending, each player knows their role inside-out and they work very hard collectively.

“I know it is going to be a tough game and playing Japan in Japan makes it even tougher.”

Australia’s warm-up fixture against Japan kicks-off at 11.20am tomorrow morning.

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