Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson faces the tough task of lifting his weakened and embarrassed team for Wednesday morning’s match against Portugal.

Matildas legend Joey Peters says Tony Gustavsson remains the best option to coach Australia at next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup despite his ongoing failure to “bring the best” out of his players.

Fresh from their embarrassing 7-0 weekend loss to Spain, an experimental Matildas side missing a host of first-choice players meet Portugal in Estoril on Wednesday morning (AEST).

While Portugal isn’t expected to be as tough as Spain, the world’s seventh-ranked team, it’s set to be another daunting assignment for the inexperienced Australians.

Gustavsson’s decision to play these matches without the majority of Australia’s best players, who are being rested on the advice of the Matildas’ medical staff, has many questioning whether he’s the right person to coach the team at next year’s World Cup, particularly on the back of continuing defensive problems.

However, Peters, who made 110 Matildas appearances in a decorated 13-year national team spell, believes Football Australia must persevere with the Sweden-born coach, who is contracted until 2024.

“I still don’t understand why people want to criticise him and say he doesn’t know what he’s doing,” Peters said.

“He’s been part of a World Cup-winning team with the US (as an assistant coach) and his European record speaks for itself.”

However, Peters said there was “still something missing” from the Matildas even when at full strength.

“We haven’t found someone who can bring the best out of these players. I don’t think Tony’s done that yet,” she said.

“We haven’t had a consistent run where we’ve played our best football.

“Everyone else is getting better.”

And for the Matildas to also get “better”, Peters said they had to play games such as their clash against Spain regardless of who was available for selection.

“It would have been good to play Spain at their peak with our best team, but at the same time it’s all about preparation for next year’s World Cup and no one’s willing to give away too many secrets,” she said.

“Us playing Spain, even with an understrength team, we got more out of it than them.

“It was extreme circumstances that we were put totally under the pump by one of the best teams in the world.

“It showed what we need to work on not only as a national team but with our players coming through.

“People are slamming the coach and the planning in this, but if you really want to learn as a football nation, then you never turn down the opportunity to play the best teams in the world.

“I don’t understand a lot of this fearful attitude that’s come around.

“The focus on the scoreline is astounding. Especially with preparations for the World Cup, it’s worth so much more than the scoreline.”

Peters had no problems with the likes of Sam Kerr, Steph Catley, Mary Fowler, Hayley Raso, Alanna Kennedy, Caitlin Foord and Kyah Simon being rested for the two matches.

“We want to look at them as machines, that they should play their best every game, that they should play all year round – it’s not realistic,.” she said.

“To give them two months off now when we’re still 12 months out from the World Cup, it’s brilliant timing.

“They’ve never had a rest. We accept injuries way too easily.”

Socceroos great Robbie Slater agreed that players needed a rest but questioned the decision to play a powerhouse of women’s football without a host of top-line players.

“It’s good to give players coming through a game but not against a team like Spain,” Slater said.

“Having played in that game is not going to do a lot for the younger girls’ confidence.”

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