The Matildas woke up from their first-half slumber in Gosford on Thursday night to respond to Sam Kerr’s ‘amazing’ speech in their 4-0 win over the Czech Republic.
The Europeans were the better of the teams in the opening 45 minutes. Matildas started the Cup of Nations campaign in a sleepy and sometimes disjointed way on the Central Coast.
But following a moving half-time speech from star Chelsea striker Kerr, the Matildas showed greater intention and energy in the second half, scoring four goals in a positive sign for this year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup. .
Manchester City winger Haley Laso scored twice, with Kerr and record-breaking defender Claire Polkinhorn also on the scoresheet.
Polkinghorn’s 84th-minute goal was a fitting way to close out the game, and the veteran defender captained his side for the night, taking home Matilda’s all-time record of 152 appearances alone.
The 34-year-old Queenslanders were also overwhelmed by the hosts for the rest of the contest after putting up a solid defense against a Czech team that plagued Matildas in the first half.
Matildas coach Tony Gustafsson was pleased with the team’s second-half reaction and credited Kerr for lifting his teammate.
‘Her talk at halftime was great’, said Gustafsson network 10.
“Her leadership is phenomenal. She’s been in important matches and can recreate what it’s like.
“Be patient, believe, be positive, be energized. But we need to play faster, we need to do better… It’s a balance of support and demand. Great leadership.”
Kerr denied a penalty claim in the 18th minute when he was overwhelmed by veteran Czech defender Petra Bertholdova.
Matildas then wasted a potential chance after seven minutes when a pass from Laso was poorly placed.
The Czechs then took the lead and created three chances in six minutes.
On each occasion, Matilda’s goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold was forced to make a save.
The West Ham custodians flipped a long-range effort from defender Anna Draskova around the posts in the 26th minute.
Arnold then thanked Jitka Krastakova for a poor finish in the 29th minute.
Krastakova, who plays for Western Sydney Wanderers in the A-League women’s competition, should have scored, but sent her weak shot into Arnold’s grateful arm.
Matilda’s sloppy play gave Mikaela Cairova a chance in the 32nd minute, but Arnold came to Australia’s rescue again with a smart save at the near post.
Three minutes after half-time, Laso’s shot deflected Draskova’s trajectory and hit the inside of the post into the net.
Laso doubled Australia’s lead with a close-range header in the 56th minute.
Kerr’s 62nd goal made it 3–0 in the 71st minute, and Polkinghorn provided the icing on the cake 13 minutes later.
Spain beat Jamaica 3-0 in Thursday’s Cup of Nations.
https://www.theaustralian.com.au/breaking-news/matildas-overcome-slow-start-to-beat-czechia-in-cup-of-nations-thrashing/news-story/452f7ab257504c672b5a498dc15c62e0 Matildas launches Cup of Nations campaign in style