Hayley Raso double helps Australia thrash Czech Republic 4-0 in Cup of Nations

A half-time pep talk from Sam Kerr helped the Matildas snap out of a cumbersome start and run away with a comfortable 4-0 Cup of Nations win over Czech Republic in Gosford.

Australia were unconvincing in the opening 45 minutes of Thursday night's game, which head coach Tony Gustavsson constantly referred to as a "dress rehearsal" for their opening World Cup group match.

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The Matildas were fortunate to go in scoreless at half-time after the visitors missed a trio of chances, but Gustavsson revealed a rev up from Kerr sparked them into life.

Hayley Raso grabbed a double to get Australia on a roll after the interval before Kerr added a third to the delight of the 7,702-strong crowd.

Kerr is Australia's regular captain but handed over the armband to Clare Polkinghorne on her special occasion.

Veteran defender Polkinghorne became the Matildas' most-capped player of all time in her 152nd game and celebrated by scoring the fourth and final goal.

"We said at halftime, 'What if this was the opening in the World Cup with 80,000 in the stands behind us getting frustrated?' and Sam said 'don't freak out'," Gustavsson said.

"Sam is an emotional player but she has gotten much better in emotional control when she needs to say the right things.

"She can be the passion and the heart of the team when need be, and drive people."

Australia play world No. 7 Spain, who beat Jamaica earlier on Thursday, in Parramatta on Sunday in a game which is likely to decide the winner of the tournament.

"I definitely think in Sunday's game we need to be much better," Gustavsson said. "If we give away that type of space when we lose the ball against Spain, it's going to be completely different challenge."

If it wasn't for goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold, who was starting her first Matildas game in over a year, Australia could have found themselves 3-0 down.

Australia struggled for penetration before Kerr found Raso in space for the 49th minute opener to break the deadlock.

Raso followed that up by poking home a flick-on at a corner, with Kerr blasting a rebound into the Czech net for a third.

Polkinghorne then capped her historic night by scoring off a deflection from a corner with less than 10 minutes left.

"There was no space because they were too compact and we were too slow," Gustavsson said. "You need to wear a team down. It takes patience and belief and the team showed a lot of maturity tonight

"This game was about what we've done over the last two years, structure and management of the game."