Fruits of the Vine as speed kills for Matildas against Spain

Speed on the wing, and fluency in attack helped the Matildas to a big win over Spain in their matchup in the Cup of Nations.

The Matildas had a big win over Czechia on Thursday night, and continued their attacking ways early against Spain.

Cortnee Vine was the main antagonist, torturing the left side of the Spanish defence repeatedly, as she darted down the sideline.

Across the field, it was Clare Hunt, in her second appearance, combining with fellow young gun Charli Grant, that were struggling in defence, as the left side of defence lacked chemistry early on.

It wasn't a concern for long, as the Matildas opened the scoring. It was Vine who was the beneficiary of a probing Hayley Raso run, as Raso sent a cross careening across the front of the box, and Vine latched on with a thunderbolt from outside the penalty area.

In the moments later, Caitlin Foord threatened to double the margin, as she pushed a shot just past the left post.

All the while, Raso continued to threaten down the right wing, mirroring Vine on her opposite side.

It was another Raso run that created the next opportunity, as Sam Kerr headed a threatening cross towards goal. It was parried by Maria Isabel Rodriguez, but the ball fell to Clare Polkinghorne, who continued the form she showed in her milestone match on Thursday to find the back of the net again.

After a drinks break, as the players battled on in the heat, it was Spain who started to threaten to break through, but the Australians were the ones to take advantage.

Another probing run from Raso won a free kick, as Steph Catley stepped up to the mark. Her looping kick was headed home by Caitlin Foord, who this time found the back of the net for the Matildas' third.

Coming out of the break, the Spanish side peppered Mackenzie Arnold's goal, pushing to try and reduce the gap.

A quarter of an hour after the resumption, Raso, still dealing with the effects of a dislocated finger, was substituted out, with Larissa Crummer being given her opportunity.

Mackenzie Arnold continued to be a rock for the Australians, swatting away numerous chances for Spain to get back into the game. Meanwhile, her outfield teammates continued to threaten at the other end.

Mackenzie Arnold was a rock for the Matildas. Image: Jo Stephan

Mackenzie Arnold was a rock for the Matildas. Image: Jo Stephan

Spain controlled long periods of the second half, dominating possession and territory, but unable to find a way through the Australian defence.

It was Olga Carmona Garcia who finally was the beneficiary of Spain's sustained attack, putting the visiting side on the board just before the drinks break.

The Matildas started to swing late substitutions, with Alex Chidiac, Courtney Nevin, Emily Van Egmond and Elise Kellond-Knight all getting a late run.

Redondo Ferrer found the net in stoppage time, bringing the score back to 3-2, with a superb volley past Mackenzie Arnold. It wasn't enough, as the Matildas controlled enough possession in the final seconds of the match to run out the clock.

After the match, Kerr was quick to credit the outside players for the ball they provided into the box and the attacking opportunities they created.

"So I think it's an unbelievable position that we're so lucky to have so many players," Kerr explained.

"I think Charli [Grant]'s really grown into herself and she has been a key part for us and she will be going forward for many years and Vine is finding her feet, she scored a banger tonight."

Charli Grant was a constant threat for the Matildas against Spain. Image: Jo Stephan

Charli Grant was a constant threat for the Matildas against Spain. Image: Jo Stephan

Reflecting, Kerr noted that the Matildas have plenty of depth in that position, and it will be important for the future to have those young stars coming through.

"We have a lot of good wingers, or wide players. I think it's probably our most stacked position and I think that's why they're all playing so well - because there is so much competition out there.

"You know, even [Foord] you can jump out there. We've got Vine, Chids [Chidiac] did so well when she came on last game. Charlie's flying, Ellie [Carpenter]'s back soon.

"So I think it's an unbelievable position that we're so lucky to have so many players.

"They work so hard. They're good kids and it's not easy to come from club-land back into the national team. And this is only their first few years of doing it. So really proud of how they've progressed."

Sam Kerr was a key linchpin in attack for the Matildas, with a hand in multiple goals. Image: Jo Stephan

Sam Kerr was a key linchpin in attack for the Matildas, with a hand in multiple goals. Image: Jo Stephan

Matildas' coach Tony Gustavsson was quick to praise the depth and talent of those players too.

"We actually spoke about it last night when we looked at the lineup and talked about the lineup and we talked about game changers," Gustavsson explained.

"Look at the depth look at the options we have now. And we would not have been there with that if it wasn't that. An example in Charli Grant - if she would not have been given all those opportunities to play against top opposition and be okay to do mistakes, and learn from it and get better and better.

"Courtney Nevin the same thing like they had zero caps when I came on board and look at where they are now.

It takes time it takes investment and sometimes it takes some bravery as well to do to do that from the Federation from the place and for myself and I'm happy to see that depth now and that's what we need in the World Cup."

Gustavsson has turned plenty of his mind to the home World Cup, just a few months away, taking ownership of coaching and match management decisions in the win.

"Ther is always going to be the challenge as a coach and we're paid to try to find answers before we know if it's right or wrong.

"And sometimes you get it right and sometimes you get it completely wrong admit that and you'll learn from it."

"Tonight for example I need to look at a time you know a couple of things that didn't second half and take ownership on that and look at a video and review that.

"There were also some communication issues tonight from the bench to the to the place I don't know if you saw in the second half, we ended up in the sixth back for a minute and a half and that was not an aim to do that.

And it's when we have 80,000 in the stands we need to learn to communicate with other things than words and so that's a good learning experience."

After piling on the goals tonight, Gustavsson is right to worry about a crowd of 80,000. After Tuesday's matchup against Jamaica, the next time the Matildas take the field together will be the opening match of the FIFA Women's World Cup, where a crowd of just that magnitude is expected.

But until then, the wide players will wreak havoc, and Gustavsson will try to work out what is right and what is wrong, before the rest of us see it.

The Matildas take on Jamaica in the final match of the Cup of Nations on Tuesday night.