The Matildas have endured a sobering return to international action, being outclassed in a 5-2 defeat by Olympic champions Germany in Wiesbaden.
In their first match since qualifying for the Tokyo Games, new coach Tony Gustavsson admitted Saturday’s painful afternoon was a “reality check” for the Australian national side, who chased shadows for much of the afternoon against the world’s No.2 team.
Even two late goals from Emily Gielnik couldn’t hide the gulf in class between the two sides as the Matildas really did look like a team who hadn’t played an international together for 13 months.
With their defence in disarray, rusty attack blunt and looking disjointed throughout the team, superstar captain Sam Kerr was not about to make excuses.
“I don’t think we were very good,” she said.
“We need to pick it up.
“It was difficult. New players, new coach, a lot of people haven’t played at international level … We’ve got to learn from it.”
Swede Gustavsson was also acquainted with the tough job ahead, admitting: “We need this reality check. We need to see where we’re at right now.
“Is it tough? Yes, but we need that toughness to know exactly what we need to do in order to prepare for the Olympics.”
His side were lucky just to only be one goal down at halftime to Sjoeke Nusken’s 10th minute strike, having at that point not had a single attempt on goal themselves.
Yet the Matildas were outplayed even more comprehensively after the break with further goals from Kathrin Hendrich, Jule Brand and Laura Freigang powering them into a 4-0 lead, a tally which could easily have been doubled.
Gielnik pulled one back in the 82nd minute and after Germany had made it five through a thunderous Linda Dallman strike in stoppage time, the Brisbane Roar striker immediately nabbed a consolation header to give the scoreline a flattering look.
The Australian team had a difficult preparation with their charter flight from their Netherlands training base having been delayed but the hosts had been far more inconvenienced, with four players ruled out in the hours before kickoff because of a COVID-19 scare.
Yet apart from Gielnik’s late double and a five-minute spell at the start when the Matildas opened brightly, Germany still looked in a different league with Kerr hardly getting a look in up front.
In a match played behind closed doors, it was a proud occasion for 18-year-old Mary Fowler, who was given her first start – the most notable selection in Gustavsson’s attack-minded lineup.
But defence was the order of the day with the visitors, already missing key players like Steph Catley and Ellie Carpenter, unlucky to lose Karly Roestbakken early to injury, thus forcing Beatrice Goad to endure a baptism of fire, which she handled with some aplomb.
Aivi Luik, though, failed to clear her lines early, allowing Nusken to fire home after 10 minutes but Lydia Williams produced a couple of fine saves and Goad made one wonderful last-ditch tackle to stop the Germans taking a more commanding lead into halftime.
After the Germans’ fine captain Sara Dabritz then picked out Hendrich to fire home left-footed just after the break, the hosts really turned the screw.
They brought on the exciting teenager Brand, who scored one and made another within minutes of making her bow and she also hit the crossbar as the woodwork twice spared the Matildas further damage.
Chelsea star Kerr had no change out of the well-drilled German rearguard but they got sloppy when Gielnik was pushed forward and robbed them to pull one back before she also nodded home her ninth international goal at the death.
It promises not to get much easier for the world No.7-ranked Matildas on Tuesday when they play a Netherlands side who beat the Germans the last time out.
“We played an outstanding team tonight, so hats off to them,” said Gustavsson. “They were a class better than us tonight.”
Source by 7news.com.au