Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson has admitted he can no longer keep the hype of Mary Fowler under control as her stunning displays and a comparison to Aussie golden girl Sam Kerr show just how good she is. Fowler's long-range strike helped Australia to a 3-0 win over Chinese Taipei in Perth on Wednesday night, her second goal in three qualifiers.
Fowler shot to stardom at this year's Women's World Cup and also forced her way into a starting spot at English powerhouse Manchester City. The 20-year-old looks to be only on the up and comparisons are being drawn to Kerr, with statistics showing she is well ahead of where her Aussie teammate was at the same stage in her career.
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A post to X, formerly known as Twitter, noted that Fowler has 13 international goals for Australia at 20 years of age. When Kerr was the same age, she had only scored three times for the Matildas. While things such as quality of the side, more matches played and an unfortunate ACL injury to Kerr when she was 19 must be taken into consideration, Fowler looks destined to end up in the same stratosphere as Kerr.
Matildas coach Gustavsson says the expectations for Fowler are now astronomical, admitting there is no way he can downplay them any more. "How am I going to keep the expectations down on that one now?" Gustavsson said when speaking on Fowler after the Matildas 3-0 win over Taiwan.
"The funny thing is that when she pulls off that goal tonight - that's what we see in training every day. Left foot, right foot, inside of the foot, laces, clipped balls. She's quick at decision-making, she knows exactly where the goal is, where the goalkeeper is and where the opening is. And her finishing is just one of a kind. I think Sam (Kerr) has said it before - it's one of the best finishers she's ever played with."
To put into perspective how good Mary Fowler is…
Sam Kerr (only!) had three international goals when she was 20.
Mary Fowler already has 13!!!#AUSvTPE
— Lachlan McKirdy (@LMcKirdy7) November 1, 2023
— georgia (@georgjar) November 1, 2023
While Fowler is undoubtedly a star in her own right, Gustavsson doesn't want her to be bogged down with responsibilities and expectations and wants her to be able to just focus on her football. "I think one of the reasons why Mary can be Mary is because the other players around allow her just to be Mary and then adjust to that so she can play free from fear and just enjoy the game," Gustavsson said.
"That's what I want her to keep doing no matter what happens in terms of expectations or headlines. Just be Mary."
Mary Fowler grows under Tony Gustavsson's leadership
The 20-year-old says the Matildas coach allows her to play her style of football and be a free-thinking kind of player. Fowler says his leadership means she can play her best football and be unpredictable on the pitch.
"I think it always helps when you get the backing from the coach and the freedom to be able to do that and just to rotate," Fowler said. "I think we're all very free-thinking kind of players and ball players.
"So to be able to move around quite a bit, it's very unpredictable for the other team and it just allows us to play our game and have fun out there."
The Matildas faced the prospect of facing the in-form Japan team to qualify for the Olympics. Japan were knocked out of the World Cup in the quarter-final in a 2-1 defeat to Sweden. However, the Matildas will fancy their chances against Uzbekistan across two legs next year with Japan facing North Korea to qualify.
Gustavsson has not only been impressed with Sam Kerr, Caitlin Foord and Mary Fowler's scoring exploits in the campaign, but also the defence. "Three clean sheets may be what I'm most happy about," Gustavsson said after the game in Perth. "When I came on board three years ago, everyone talked about this being a leaky defence and we needed to fix things.
"And these were three teams that parked the bus in transition, and you can be vulnerable in that. But we were clinical in our regains to win the ball back to stop the transition.
"We've kept 13 clean sheets over the last year now. And attacking-wise, I'm happy that we show more variation against the parked bus. There's more combination play, there's much more variation in this camp than before."
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