An under-strength Matildas team have been trounced 7-0 by Spain in Hueva, piling more pressure on coach Tony Gustavsson.
Coach Tony Gustavsson has defended his experimenting but faces more pressure after the Matildas were pummeled 7-0 by Spain as they prepare for next year's home FIFA Women's World Cup.
Matildas versus Spain
- Spain pummelled the Matildas by a scoreline of 7-0 on Sunday.
- A number of key players were missing from the Australian line-up.
- Head coach Tony Gustavsson defended his side after the defeat.
More Australian football news can be found on FTBL.
The Swede stuck to a plan to give opportunities to domestic players, resting key stars including skipper Sam Kerr, Alanna Kennedy, Caitlin Foord, Kyah Simon and Mary Fowler, for Saturday night's match at the Estadio Nuevo Colombino in Huelva.
World No.7 Spain took full advantage as they ran rampant in a dominant six-goal second half as more inexperienced players came on and the Matildas suffered their worst defeat in a quarter of a century.
The value of the exercise for the Matildas was questioned by commentators, although they defended resolutely in the first half before crumbling in the second.
Gustavsson was already under pressure after the Matildas were dumped out of the Asian Cup in the quarter-finals in January, following a poor record since he took over in 2020.
"There's probably going to be some reactions of 'why did you play such a good team with such an inexperienced roster?'," Gustavsson told reporters.
"But I think we need these answers. Not short-term, and especially not for me - I'm going to be scrutinised now but it's not about me - it's about the long-term legacy '23 and beyond.
"Not just preparation for the World Cup but investments past that World Cup and I think the answers that we got now is a wake-up call for a lot of people."
Gustavsson said he always intended to take a different approach to each half, introducing more inexperienced players later.
"I want to be clear now, this is not about blaming individual players for this loss. These players are more representing a situation we're in right now," he said.
"We finished the game with four players playing in the NPL and one player playing in college. And to expect those players to match up to Spain is not fair on the individuals.
"But I am ready to take that hit as a coach. I've said that from day one, we need answers and we need investment in our program."
The match marked the return of forward Larissa Crummer for her first international in over two years following a serious leg break.
Cortnee Vine gained a start alongside Crummer and Brisbane Roar teammates Katrina Gorry and Emily Gielnik.
Defensively, youngsters Courtney Nevin and Charli Grant were paired alongside the experienced Tameka Yallop, who assumed the captaincy, and Clare Polkinghorne.
The tireless work of midfielders Clare Wheeler and Emily van Egmond helped keep Spain in check early and the Matildas went close to opening the scoring midway when Gorry hit the crossbar from 20 metres out midway through the first half.
Australia's resistance was broken just before halftime with Bonmati curling her edge-of-the-box shot past the outstretched arm of goalkeeper Teagan Micah.
A goal down at the break, Gustavsson introduced Jamilla Rankin for her international debut while Micah made way for Mackenzie Arnold and Princess Ibini made her return to Matlilas action.
Spain doubled their lead in the 48th minute and quickly followed with goals in the 53rd and 57th minutes.
Gustavsson made more changes with Remy Siemsen and Amy Sayer coming on in the 66th minute and Sydney FC's Taylor Ray was introduced in the midfield in the 75th minute.
Spain added three late goals in the 81st, 89th and 90th minutes .
The Matildas will take on Portugal in the final match of the FIFA window on Tuesday in Estoril.
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