Clean sweep: Matildas’ World Cup prep hits top gear

Three stunning goals to Katrina Gorry, Alex Chidiac and Caitlin Foord propelled Australia to a Cup of Nations clean sweep, writes TILLY WERNER.

Three straight wins sealed by three brilliant goals.

The Matildas’ World Cup build-up hit top gear with a Cup of Nations clean sweep, capped by a 3-0 win over Jamaica in Newcastle on Wednesday that featured a trio of stunning goals to Katrina Gorry, Alex Chidiac and Caitlin Foord.

In recording victories over Czechia, Spain and Jamaica, the Matildas overcame jet lag, mixed fitness and a limited preparation to send a warning to the world’s top teams in what Tony Gustavsson described as a “dress rehearsal” for the group stage of July’s home World Cup.

It was their first tournament win under Gustavsson and their seventh straight victory, a feat they have not achieved since 2017, and will give them plenty of confidence ahead of their next match against England, one of the World Cup favourites, in April.

The Matildas were rusty against Czechia, strong against Spain and mercurial against Jamaica; patchy phases interspersed with moments of brilliance.

The Australians underestimated Jamaica early, sitting back in defence and allowing the speedy visitors the better early chances at goal. They struggled to find the same discipline they executed in transition play across their first two matches and opportunities to attack the Jamaican goal proved hard to come by in the first half.

Enter Gorry.

Never one to wait for an invitation to strike, Gorry broke the deadlock in signature style with a long range strike from a Foord assist in the 28th minute. With Hayley Raso ruled out due to a finger injury sustained against Spain, Gorry took up the mantle of pace-setter, exerting herself with an incredible workrate through the first 45 minutes.

Alex Chidiac’s entry into the game at half-time had an immediate impact, with the Melbourne Victory striker hammering home a second goal for the Matildas in the 56th minute.

“I think coming on with a lot of intensity is something that Tony has been wanting me to do and I bought that out as much as possible,” Chidiac said. “Everyone knows I’m not much of a winger but the instruction was to show what you can do. With the ball I had the freedom to cut inside and that’s what I like to do.”

With less attacking options going forward, Gustavsson’s defenders were challenged more consistently across the 90 than in their first two matches against Czechia and Spain.

Clare Hunt, in her second start for her country, looked completely at home in central defence, stopping a Jamaican one-on-one and partnering Clare Polkinghorne and Steph Catley in central defence.

Gustavsson’s development of his defensive roster has been one of the most important legacies of his tenure to date. Mackenzie Arnold anchored a strong backline, earned Player of the Series honours and enhanced her chances of securing a place in the Matildas World Cup squad.

“I’ve come off a couple of good performances at West Ham leading into this tournament, and I had the mindset that I had nothing to lose,” Arnold said. “The opportunity came up and I had to grab it with both hands which I haven’t done in the past. Thankfully, I was able to bring it to this tournament.”

The last time Australia faced Jamaica – at the 2019 World Cup – Kerr produced a masterclass in six-yard box antics, scoring four goals and ending Jamaica’s hopes of progressing past the group stage.

While Kerr didn’t have the same impact on the scoresheet this time, her development as the team’s leader has been as significant as any on-field contribution through this tournament.

The Matildas captain played all but three minutes of the tournament and had a hand in almost all Matildas’ moves in their final third, acting as a front line playmaker and recording an assist as Foord again found her name on the scoresheet in the 69th minute to seal the win; once more with a memorable strike.

Jamaica, who will face off against France, Brazil and a final team to be determined after playoffs in New Zealand this week in the group stage,, will be ruing the absence of Bunny Shaw, the Man City striker and Jamaica’s captain, as the team lacked punch in their final third.

The Matildas now turn their attention to the significant challenge of European champions, the Lionesses, in what could mirror a round of 16 clash should the Matildas finish second in their group.

Tilly WernerContent producer

Tilly Werner is an emerging talent in the sports journalism world with a particular focus on AFL, Football (Soccer), Basketball and Disability Sports.

With a Graduate Diploma in Sports Management (UTS) and a Bachelor of International Studies (UNSW), Tilly’s writing pursuits extend beyond just the game, exploring the stories behind the athletes and their connection to the world around them.

Tilly also has a distinguished career in Athletics and currently sits as Executive Director on the Board of NSW Goalball.

Influencing her writing style is an extensive career writing for NFP charities, sporting organisations, and the NSW Parliament. Tilly is currently writing and producing for CODE Sports at News Corp Australia.

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