Matildas defeated by Spain in a friendly 7-0

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In their first international meeting with world number 7 Spain, an experimental Australia slumped 7-0 in Matildas’ heaviest defeat in 25 years, a year before a Women’s World Cup on home soil.

A resolute defensive display in the first half gave way to a capitulation in the second half, leading some commentators to question the value of playing such an inexperienced team against one of the best teams in the world.

The defeat adds to the pressure on manager Tony Gustavsson, who was already under fire after Matildas’ early exit from the Asian Cup in January and whose record since taking over in 2020 has been poor.

Without a host of regular starters, including captain Sam Kerr, Australia went into half-time in Huelva just a goal down, after Aitana Bonmatí finally broke their resistance in the 44th minute.

Related: New $828m Sydney Stadium to open with NRL, Wallabies and Matildas games

But after the break the visitors collapsed, and when Mariona Caldentey found the back of the net in the 48th minute, the floodgates opened. Esther González added a third before Lucía García scored her first of the game as Spain took a 4-0 lead 10 minutes after the restart.

Garcia added her second of the night before Irene Guerrero bagged two for her as full time approached and Spain continued their preparations ahead of the upcoming Women’s Euro in style.

For the Matildas, it was their biggest loss since a 9-1 loss to the United States in 1997, and they equaled a 7-0 thrashing at the hands of China in 1988.

The likes of Kerr, Ellie Carpenter, Steph Catley, Kyah Simon, Mary Fowler, Alanna Kennedy and Caitlin Foord weren’t in for the game in Huelva, with several new faces recruited.

Taylor Ray and Jamilla Rankin made their debuts as Gustavsson made eight changes to the side that beat New Zealand 3-1 in Canberra last month and experimented with five at the back.

Former Socceroo Andy Harper questioned the wisdom of pitting such a weak team against one of the most formidable teams in the world with a year to go before the World Cup.

“A lot of people, Matilda devotees … will be thinking, ‘Why this, why now?'” Harper told Channel Ten. “That is the question that will be reverberating.

“You play against Spain away from home one year before the World Cup. Iron sharpens iron, so this was iron against wood, with all due respect.

“That second-half meltdown isn’t a discredit to our team, but by my count there are four or maybe five girls out of the NSW NPL (National Premier League). So, a year after the World Cup, is that when we see if girls playing at that level of football can take on six of the top 30 players in the world?

“This could have been 20 games ago to start looking at options. However, it is what it is for today, and now he [Gustavsson] He has to unite the team… but how much damage could have been done today?

Australia plays Portugal next Wednesday AEST at the Antonio Coimbra da Mota Stadium in Estoril in another friendly.

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