Soccer-Matildas have 'tons of motivation' for Brazil series, says coach Gustavsson

FILE PHOTO: Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Soccer Football - Women - Bronze medal match - Australia v United States - Ibaraki Kashima Stadium, Ibaraki, Japan - August 5, 2021. Australia coach Tony Gustavsson reacts REUTERS/Henry Romero

(Reuters) - Australia are motivated to play at home for the first time in more than 18 months when they begin their two-match series against South American champions Brazil on Saturday, coach Tony Gustavsson said.

The Matildas, ranked 11th in the world, host world number seven Brazil on Saturday and next Tuesday at the Western Sydney Stadium as they return to action on home soil following their Olympic qualifier win over Vietnam in March 2020.

Up to 22,500 spectators will be allowed to attend the games after the New South Wales government permitted 75% crowd capacity under new COVID-19 rules.

"I feel there's tons of motivation out there to play this game together with the fans in the stands," coach Gustavsson told reporters on Friday.

"I hope this isn't interpreted as me being disrespectful to the other important things that's talked about now - all the events in women's football," he said, referring to allegations of abuse made by former Australia striker Lisa De Vanna.

"But there's so many things to be excited about here. First time on home soil in 600 days, playing Brazil, we have Alanna Kennedy - who's a local (product) - playing her 100th cap.

"I hope these are the things that are going to take over so we have this fantastic 90 minutes plus of football, so we can celebrate the women's game in that sense."

Gustavsson urged the players to embrace the pressure as they prepare for the 2023 World Cup, which Australia will co-host with neighbours New Zealand.

"What I'm trying to do is explain to players and staff is if you genuinely want to be the team that can lift that trophy in '23, we need to get used to performing under pressure," he said. "Look at pressure as a privilege."

(Reporting by Manasi Pathak in Bengaluru; Editing by Kim Coghill)

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