Spain fall short with late comeback against superb Matildas in Cup of Nations

Caitlin Foord
Caitlin Foord
Jan Christensen / Getty Images

A late comeback from a fierce Spain has not dimmed one of the most impressive performances of the Tony Gustavsson era as the Matildas grabbed a 3-2 Cup of Nations win on Sunday.

Australia raced out to a 3-0 halftime lead at CommBank Stadium with goals from livewire winger Cortnee Vine, veteran defender Clare Polkinghorne and striker Caitlin Foord.

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But just as Australia were about to state their World Cup credentials with a clean sheet, Spain hit them with two goals in the last 20 minutes.

The late flurry from the visitors shouldn't take away from the fact that the Matildas played some of their best football seen under the Swede, however Gustavsson said his side needed to stay "humble.

"We need to be humble and not get carried away here," he told reporters. "I think there's moments of brilliance in that first half, especially how we defended against a Spain team that is brilliant on the ball.

"It's an important reminder that we need to play all the way through to the last second. When you concede in extra-time it puts a little bit of extra emotion ... but we can't let the last goal cloud our sight of the performance."

Since being appointed in 2021, Gustavsson has made a point of exposing the Matildas to the world's top-ranked nations.

They have often come up short and last year were thumped 7-0 by Spain -- albeit a drastically different side to Sunday where they played at an unrelenting pace the World No. 7 La Roja were unable to match.

Gustavsson's side, who play their final Cup of Nations fixture against Jamaica in Newcastle on Wednesday, have now won their past six games.

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Spain began ominously, however, making their intent known early as they looked to play in behind the Matildas' line.

Twice the Australian back four breathed a sigh of relief that the referee's assistant got them out of jail by flagging for offside.

But soon the action was down the other end, Sydney FC winger Vine opening the scoring from the edge of the box with a perfectly weighed first-time strike to give Australia the lead.

Foord made one jinking run nearly 90 seconds later which glanced just wide, before Polkinghorne made it two for the Matildas in the 16th minute.

Spain's Marta Carro failed to clear a flick-on by Sam Kerr and Polkinghorne was on hand to stab the ball home at the back post.

Kerr had a goal ruled out for offside but the Matildas continued to hunt for a third. This time Foord delivered as she headed an inch-perfect Steph Catley freekick past Spanish goalkeeper Maria Rodriguez.

Foord also had a goal chalked off before Spain launched a comeback as Gustavsson rotated his formation and brought fresh bodies on.

Spain grabbed one back in the 73rd minute through a long-range Olga Carmona effort before Alba Redondo notched a second for the visitors in added time.

"When you play against a team like Spain, it's freaking difficult to keep them away from the goal because they're so good on the ball," Gustavsson said.

"What I'm most proud of today is the team effort. It was a team out there tonight."