A stunning Caitlin Foord hat trick stole the show last night as the Matildas ran rampant in the second half to chalk up a 5-0 win over Chile in Newcastle.
The Australians rediscovered their groove and displayed a ruthless streak that will hold them in good stead as they prepare for next year’s World Cup.
Coach Alen Stajcic made three changes to the line-up that lost to Chile in Penrith on the weekend, with Mackenzie Arnold being prefered to Lydia Williams in goal, Newcastle Jets co-captain Gema Simon starting as veteran Lisa De Vanna dropped to the bench, and Alanah Kennedy replacing Laura Alleway at centre back.
Chile started brightly, clearly buoyed by their success on the Saturday. The South Americans dominated possession in the early exchanges but it was the Matildas who fashioned an early threat.
In the 12th minute Foord, who has fought back from a serious foot injury over recent months, broke free in midfield and found Ellie Carpenter deep on the right, but Carpenter’s cross just missed Sam Kerr’s run into the box.
Chile responded brilliantly. Karen Araya picked up a hurried clearance from the Matildas and from 35 yards drove hard at goal that forced a fingertip save over the crossbar from Arnold.
Carpenter’s radar on her next cross from the right in the 20th minute was vastly improved and found Chloe Lagarzo at the back post, but she couldn’t direct her header on target.
The visitors defensive discipline frustrated the Matildas, who found it difficult to move the ball at pace, which reduced Sam Kerr’s ability to find space to work in.
Chile were growing in confidence. On the half hour Daniela Zamora burnt the Australian defence with pace down the left and forced a close range save from Mackenzie Arnold at her near post.
After 40 minutes Sam Kerr was hacked down and from the resultant free-kick Alannah Kennedy’s header hit the back post flush and bounced out as the first half ended goalless.
That was all about to change.
The breakthrough came in the 51st minute when Caitlin Foord finally found a gap in the Chilean defence and fed a perfect pass to Sam Kerr, who buried the chance to give the Australians the lead.
Almost immediately the Matildas doubled their advantage. Foord’s finish from a tight angle on the right was superb and a Chilean defence that had been rock solid was suddenly reduced to rubble.
TWO GOALS IN TWO MINUTES! 🔥🔥
Kerr & Foord combine and the Westfield Matildas are on fire.
— Westfield Matildas (@TheMatildas) November 13, 2018
Suddenly, the Matildas were lit and Caitlin Foord was the star turn.
When Chilean goalkeeper Christiane Endler wandered out of her area in the 67th minute Foord bustled her off the ball and coolly fired into an empty net to make it 3-0.
Now the goals were coming thick and fast.
Substitute Emily Gielnik was played in by a delightful Chloe Logarzo pass which she swept passed Endler’s despairing grasp for a fourth.
Cailtin Foord completed her first hat trick for the national team in the 88th minute to make it five for the Matildas – and a special night for the Sydney FC star.
“It’s pretty awesome, I’ve been lacking confidence in front of goal so to put those away was great” Foord said after the game.
Stajcic was delighted for his striker.
“It’s always difficult to find that rhythm and fluency that you had after an injury but I think that she found it tonight and I hope it gives her confidence for the rest of the year.”
This series has been a stern test for Alen Stajcic’s team.
Whilst the Matildas are chock full of talent, their resilience and patience was tested by a determined, disciplined and physical opponent.
Whilst Chile came to Australia ranked 39th in the world they leave here believing they can match it with the heavyweights at their first World Cup appearance in France next June.
For a team that likes to dictate the terms and tempo of any game it plays, the Matildas are being reminded that when challenged they must find a way to respond. That they were able to do so in such impressive fashion shows they’ve developed a maturity they can draw on in big moments.
With the defeat on Saturday the Matlidas lost control of their destiny when it comes to the World Cup draw which will be held on December 7.
A sixth-placed ranking would have seen them avoid each of the top five teams – England,France,Germany, England and Canada – in the group stage as each would be drawn in different groups.
The Netherlands, currently ranked 10th, will most likely leapfrog the Matildas if they beat Switzerland this morning for the second time inside a week.
Winning a World Cup requires a team to beat the best whenever and wherever they play them. For the Matildas the road might be steeper but the path is still clear.
Only time will tell if they have what it takes to reach the summit.