New Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson’s plan to stage a meet-and-greet November camp with a 23-strong brigade of European-based players is hanging in the balance thanks to the logistical minefield thrown up by the coronavirus pandemic.
A rising tide of cases across the UK and continent has turned plans to stage a London reunion for a squad which hasn’t been together since March into a challenging puzzle which the FFA remains determined to unravel.
Quarantine issues and ever-changing player release regulations are the roadblocks, but West Ham United-based midfielder Emily van Egmond spoke for the squad as a whole - nine of whom are playing in England - when she said: “Going into an Olympic (Tokyo 2021) year we need to make sure we get together and play games, like you see right now with the European nations."
“It’s important that we don’t fall too far behind.”
Earlier this week, planned Socceroos friendlies against England and USA in the English capital were scuppered, and now FA Women’s Super League-based Matildas, and their teammates in France, Norway, Netherlands, Italy, Spain and beyond are hoping they don’t suffer a similar fate.
Van Egmond voiced her frustration at watching rival nations engaged in UEFA Women’s Championship action whilst the Matildas sit idle, confined, to this point, to club football only.
“We’re keeping our fingers crossed about camps but COVID is making that extremely difficult and we might have to be a little bit patient,” she added.
“We’re keen to start a new chapter, or continue on from where we were with (previous coach) Ante (Milicic).
“But it’s difficult at moment with all the restrictions. I’m really hoping we get together soon - we need to.
“We have a new coach and we need to get on the training pitch with him, and get to know him.”
Two-time FIFA Women’s World Cup-winning former USA assistant Gustavsson remains in Sweden to see out his tenure with his club team Hammarby IF, equally keen to avert further delays in launching his project to turn the Matildas into an imposing force ahead of the Trans-Tasman-hosted 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Meanwhile, van Egmond, 27, netted her first goal for West Ham in their 4-2 home loss to Manchester United at the weekend, a result which leaves them third-bottom of the FA Women’s Super League with one point from five games.
Asked if she expected to add extra elements to her game in what is fast becoming the world’s most competitive league, van Egmond replied: “I hope so - that’s the plan.
“I’m really enjoying my time at West Ham - I’m looking to get better and improve.
“And with what’s going on in the world at the moment I’m just very grateful to be doing the things that we love which is playing football.
“I feel super lucky just to be able to get out every week and do that.
”We might not have been getting the results we want so far at the start of the season but we have a lot of potential and a good group here.
“It’s just a matter of putting all the pieces together. Once we get our first win our confidence will keep growing.”