Netherlands Women v Australia Women - International Friendly 1153067338
Netherlands Women v Australia Women - International Friendly 1153067338

Cup concern as Matildas trounced in final warm-up

The Matildas will enter the Women's World Cup with plenty to ponder after a 3-0 humbling by a clinical Netherlands side in their final tune-up match.

The world No.8 European champions were too much for sixth-ranked Australia, who started brightly and pressed well but lacked attacking polish and endured too many frail defensive moments.

Fielding a full-strength starting XI missing only the injured Elise Kellond-Knight, coach Ante Milicic would have had his best look yet at his arsenal a week out from Australia's tournament-opener with Italy in Valencienne.

 

Australia’s Ellie Carpenter (R) challenges Shanice van de Sanden of the Netherlands for the ball. Picture: Getty
Australia’s Ellie Carpenter (R) challenges Shanice van de Sanden of the Netherlands for the ball. Picture: Getty

The Matildas have now conceded eight in their last two games after going down 5-3 to reigning world champions USA in April.

"Obviously disappointed and it's a concern now when you concede five against the US and your next game you concede three," Milicic said.

"I take responsibility for that. We'll have some learnings from the game for sure, but overall I thought the first half we were a little bit nervous at times.

"Our press was okay without the ball, we were quite aggressive and did well to put them under pressure. But when we had the ball we were just a little bit anxious."

 

The match was played at a high-intensity, as Sam Kerr (20) found out. Picture: Getty
The match was played at a high-intensity, as Sam Kerr (20) found out. Picture: Getty

Saturday evening's fiery, intense affair was the least friendly friendly one might ever see in front of a raucous orange-clad capacity crowd at the Philips Stadion.

Head clashes and crunch tackles galore were the order of the day, and it was a challenge from Sam Kerr a minute before halftime that gave the Dutch the free-kick for their opener, Shanice van de Sanden peeling off Emily van Egmond to pile home a header.

Kerr very nearly equalised moments later only to be called off-side as she put the ball in the net.

Olympique Lyon's van de Sanden was a standout as one prong of Holland's triple-threat attack alongside Barcelona's Lieke Martens and Arsenal's prolific striker Vivianne Miedema, who scored a silky second for the Netherlands just after the break.

Perennially dangerous van de Sanden delivered the final kick up the behind in the 70th minute with a bullet to seal her brace.

And while the Matildas had chances they were clearly stretched.

 

The Netherland’s Sehrida Spitse slides in on Australia’s Emily van Egmond. Picture: Getty
The Netherland’s Sehrida Spitse slides in on Australia’s Emily van Egmond. Picture: Getty

DEFENCE STILL A WORK IN PROGRESS

Holland's smoking counter-attack was always going to cause issues but Australia left themselves vulnerable on the flanks and were guilty of ball-watching on occasions. Martens wiggled past right fullback Ellie Carpenter with too much ease and van de Sanden took care of Steph Catley too often on the left.

BIG STARS LEFT OUT OF THE ACTION

Arguably our biggest attacking weapons weren't able to blossom in this formation. Kerr was often isolated when she broke and Caitlin Foord struggled to get into the game at No.10. If the Matildas are to go deep into the World Cup this pair need to be utilised.

POLKS A SHINING LIGHT

Clare Polkinghorne is an old hand at the heart of defence and it showed in hairy moments, as the former co-captain tracked back consistently to avert danger and single-handedly stopped Miedema making it 4-0 with seven minutes to go.

Hayley Raso misses a chance to put Australia on the scoresheet. Picture: Getty
Hayley Raso misses a chance to put Australia on the scoresheet. Picture: Getty

KK IS CRUCIAL

There's a reason Kellond-Knight was named in FIFA's all-star team for both the 2011 and 2015 World Cups. Not only does the 28-year-old offer experience and grit in defensive midfield, but the Matildas missed her dead-ball skills here. Set pieces were shared around in her absence, with Catley stepping up for a large proportion, but the deliveries lacked KK's customary accuracy.

RASO ON THE RISE

She couldn't quite get her eye in but Hayley Raso came close more than once thanks to her movement. All after escaping an ugly head clash unscathed in the opening minutes, though Dutch defender Kika van Es wasn't so lucky and was subbed soon later in tears and with her hand bandaged.

THE DUTCH CAN DO FOOTBALL

The Philips Stadion was heaving with 30,640 fans, nearly all of the oranje variety and all singing, chanting, clapping, stamping, Mexican waving blowing decidedly annoying horns. You name it, they had it. And all within the steeped stands of PSV Eindhoven's home ground.