Matildas’ big loss to Spain asked more questions than it answered

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The day before the Matildas’ first-ever friendly match against Spain, head coach Tony Gustavsson appeared to have as many questions as the rest of Australia did about what could happen in these unprecedented 90 minutes. 

“How many boxes can we tick?” he asked.

“Where are we as a team?”

“Can we lose the game but ‘win’ a player?”


“How quickly can these [new] players adjust to the tempo?”

“Can we still control the game without the ball?”

“Who could play the number nine role [without Sam Kerr]?”

This was uncharted territory, after all: the Matildas had never played Spain before, and they were doing it without almost their entire regular starting XI. Six of the players called into this Huelva camp were uncapped, while nine more had 10 appearances or fewer at this level. Nine of them currently play in the state-based National Premier Leagues.

Their opponents, meanwhile, are in a completely different place. Spain is 10 days away from kicking off a European Championship campaign that they are one of the favoured nations to win.

Their squad is made up almost entirely of full-time professionals playing for the likes of Barcelona – who has just come off competing in its second consecutive Champions League final – and Real Madrid. Not to mention they’re also spear-headed by reigning Ballon D’Or winner, Alexia Putellas.

It was perhaps not unexpected, then, for Gustavsson to be as intrigued as anyone about how this unusual game would unfold.

Indeed, the jarring feeling of seeing fringe players like Larissa Crummer, Courtney Nevin, and Charlotte Grant in the starting line-up was only heightened by the awkward selection of a Christmas-themed Australian anthem that jingled through the Nuevo Colombino stadium speakers.

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