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Soccer-Australia, Sweden turn attention to Olympics after World Cup run


BRISBANE (Reuters) – Australia and Sweden missed out on the Women’s World Cup final but they hope their deep runs at the tournament will give them a platform to build on ahead of next year’s Paris Olympics.

Sweden finished third for the second successive tournament, and the fourth time overall, with a 2-0 win over the co-hosts on Saturday, while the Matildas achieved their best ever result at the showpiece event.

Australia were also beaten by Sweden in the semis of the 2020 Tokyo Games, before losing to the United States in the bronze medal match, and coach Tony Gustavsson said the Matildas were punching above their weight.

“We have a massive amount of work to do now to capitalise on this,” Gustavsson told reporters. “It’s a massive achievement for these players considering the resources (we have) compared to the financial resources of the top 10 ranked teams.

“These players have, in some ways, overachieved … The next step now is investment. Long term investment, not just a quick fix, because a lot of these players are going to play at the Olympics as well.”

Australia will host Iran, Taiwan and the Philippines in Perth in October and November in the second round of the Asian Football Confederation qualifiers for Paris.

“We have a good mix of experience and young players,” Gustavsson added. “It can be an advantage to have some continuity in a roster going from one tournament to another. It’s a short turnaround with … qualifiers coming up.

“I’m excited about the Olympics. But we can’t jump ahead and think we’re going to be there … So we need to focus on one step at a time.”

Peter Gerhardsson’s Sweden, who finished runners-up at the last two Olympics, have been drawn in a group containing Spain, Italy and Switzerland for the inaugural Women’s Nations League, which determines qualification for Paris.

They host Spain, who beat them 2-1 in the World Cup semi-finals, in Gothenburg on Sept. 22.

“Winning this match (against Australia), we will go back home feeling elated,” Gerhardsson said. “It’s a really tough qualification for the Olympics … but we will have excellent confidence now.

“I’ll have a week where I’ll just be watching these matches, maybe read a little bit about everything that’s been written at home, and then switch gears and start looking at the Nations League tournament.”

(Reporting by Hritika Sharma in Hyderabad; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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