The largely inexperienced Matildas were pummelled by their Spanish opponents in their latest friendly. This was not unexpected.
In the aftermath of a big loss to Spain, some context is needed with regards to the Matildas. Lydia Williams put it most succinctly in her pre match press conference “Let's be honest and real, it’s a team that’s going into a major tournament versus one that’s coming off a break.”
MATILDAS VERSUS SPAIN
- Australia lost 7-0 to Spain on Sunday.
- The team was largely experimental, featuring players from last season's A-League Women.
- Spain have continued their ruthless run of results as they prepare for the Euro's.
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Spain is not just a side preparing for a tournament. This is a team many expect to win the Euro’s. with respect to the Tournament Of Nations, or the Algarve Cup, this is a whole different level. They carry the burden of expectation comfortably. Why wouldn’t they with a side built largely around the fully professional, record smashing Barcelona side?
In their last four internationals they have scored 23 times and conceded once. All but one of those fixtures was a world cup qualifier, and the one time they conceded was in a friendly.
Spain have only had two draws in two years. The last time that they were beaten was in the 2019 World Cup to the eventual winners, The United States. That loss was also by a single goal.
Put simply, this is a powerhouse side, a ruthless winning machine stacked with full time professional players who compete in over 50 competitive fixtures. By contrast, many of the Matildas team against them are either taking their first steps in Europe or playing in the NSW NPL.
7-0 was the result.
This feels like a shock to Australian fans, but to close followers of European Women’s Football, it is a fairly regulation win for Spain. It is not an anomaly.
Their style of play and individual quality puts teams in a no-win situation. Defending deep in numbers is not negotiable. It cannot be avoided. In the first half, Australia had very impressive success with this.
Spain were caught offside on multiple attacks, Australia’s defence of Charlotte Grant, Claire Polkinghorne, Courney Nevin and Tameka Yallop were disciplined, composed and tough. Few easy chances were surrendered. The level or organisation it took to hold off Spain cannot be underestimated. That it took an incredible long range shot from Aitana Bonmati to break the deadlock, was a testament to the defensive efforts.
AITANA BONMATI...WOW 👏— 10 Football (@10FootballAU) June 25, 2022
A beautiful goal to open the scoring for Spain 🔥#ESPvAUS is live NOW on 10 and Paramount+ pic.twitter.com/M2EFbpK62f
But therein lies the problem with playing Spain. Defending deep restricts their chances. A high pressing game positions a side to be carved up through midfield. However they have the individual players to score from distance or dance through traffic. 7-0 without a significant impact from Ballon D’or winner Alexia Putellas is a signal of their depth.
The blueprint to beating them was shown by Lyon in the Champions League final against Barcelona. They are not the same side, (believe it or not, Barcelona are even stronger) but Lyon defended deep, and attacked with pace. The opening goal came from a brilliant strike from Amandine Henry.
Katrina Gorry almost accomplished with when her effort bounced off the crossbar, but that is what it takes to defeat these sides. Defending in numbers, attacking with world class talent. Australia’s attack in the first half was made up of Emily Gielnik, Larissa Crummer and Cortnee Vine, with Vine sitting deep on the right.
Gorry hits the crossbar...so close to finding the opener 😲#ESPvAUS pic.twitter.com/GuDYAwEnuc— 10 Football (@10FootballAU) June 25, 2022
Only Gielnik has European club experience, and she had been on her end of season break.
None of this is to say the result is good. Obviously the goal as stated by Tony Gustavsson is to win the World Cup, and a 7-0 loss says that there is a huge gap between our best A-League Women’s players and the best in La Liga.
However, this should be a surprise against a team that put 10 goals past Scotland in the last six months. Without the outstanding individual quality of Kerr, Foord, Catley and Hayley Raso, it was always going to be a huge ask.
This game was not a waste. Courtney Nevin enhanced her growing reputation with a mature first half performance, Clare Wheeler did not look out of place and Charlotte Grant was excellent, particularly in one-on-one duels.
Some of the bench remained unused. Jacynta Galabadaarachchi deserves an opportunity against Portugal, and Kyra Cooney-Cross was missing after arriving into camp at the last minute from Sweden.
These are two players who specialise in creating magic moments. Mackenzie Hawkesby was the most dominant midfielder in last season A-League Women and can also contribute in front of goal.
This Spanish side puts teams to the sword, they score all types of goals and in vast numbers. Defending deep does not stop them scoring from range and pushing upfield opens up the defence.
The Matildas are not the first team to fall victim to this side, all the players will be better for it, but right now, there may simply be no stopping Spain. They will continue to be a joy to watch and a nightmare to play against.
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