Vlatko Andonovski said that his US team had “nothing to lose and a lot to win” despite falling short of their target of Olympic gold, as they prepare for a bronze-medal match against Australia on Thursday.
Defeat by Canada for the first time in 20 years ensured the US missed out on the final but Andonovski insisted that it would not be hard to get players accustomed to the top prizes motivated for bronze.
“We are of the mindset that we have something to win – we have a medal ahead of us,” he said. “I know it’s not gold but it’s a medal and it’s not like it’s ours; we’re going to do everything possible to win it.”
The US have struggled to find their feet in Japan with sluggish play and errant passing uncharacteristically common. After the defeat by Canada, the 2019 Ballon d’Or winner Megan Rapinoe had said she could not put her finger on why they had not clicked or “had our joy”. “It just hasn’t flowed for us,” she said. “We just didn’t have that juice that we normally do.”
Before the game against Australia, a rematch of the final game of Group G in which a 0-0 draw saw both teams progress, the goalkeeper Adrianna Franch said she agreed with that and hoped that they would be able to play with joy in their final game of the tournament.
“You’ve got to play with joy,” she said. “There’s gonna be ups and downs, there’s gonna be rollercoasters of emotions, especially in a big tournament with different types of pressures and different types of expectations. When you play with joy all that goes away and I think if we do that, there’s some brilliance that you’ll be able to see.”
Franch will start after a knee injury forced off Alyssa Naeher against Canada, and said she was ready: “Every single day we go into training as if we are playing. We have to be in that mindset, to be ready at any point.”
A goal in the 46th minute from the Sweden forward Fridolina Rolfö condemned Australia to a rematch with the US for the bronze medal and the Matildas’ manager, Tony Gustavsson, a former assistant to the US national team, hopes the frustration they feel will drive their hunger for win.
“There’s still a disappointment not to play for a gold medal,” he said. “That disappointment has to now turn into determination to go home with a medal and that’s the key tomorrow. There’s no point sitting here whining about a loss against Sweden.”
A victory over the world champions would be “massive”, said Gustavsson, not least because of the tone it would set about the progress of the team heading towards a home World Cup in 2023, also hosted by New Zealand.
“That’s why we are mighty motivated going into this game tomorrow and we’re gonna leave everything out there,” he said. “In terms of the legacy 2023 journey that we’re on here, that I’ve been referencing since the first day I came on board and is a massive and impressive investment.
“I already think that we have sent out a lot of positive messages. I already think we’re going to leave this game better than when we arrived and, in that sense, I already think that this tournament has been important for football in Australia, but a medal is always a medal.”