It’s not the major prize on offer in women’s football this year, but Cup of Nations success is the ideal start to 2023 for the Matildas.
The Australians clinched the four-team tournament in Newcastle on Wednesday night with a 3-0 win over Jamaica.
It was the Matildas third win from three Cup of Nations matches, and their seventh victory in succession in a positive sign for the Australians ahead of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, which starts in July.
Katrina Gorry’s spectacular first-half strike was complemented by second-half goals from substitute Alex Chidiac and Arsenal star Caitlin Foord.
“We wanted to come out strong tonight and finish this tournament off and that’s exactly what we did.” Gorry told Network 10.
“Three (wins) from three (matches), I think we’re pretty happy with to start off 2023 (that way).”
Gorry said she enjoyed the physical battle against a Jamaican team that showed plenty of grit and determination, particularly in the first half.
“It was definitely physical, but we love that. That’s what we’re all about,” she said.
“Playing in the midfield when it’s a physical game, it’s always enjoyable
“We knew that was going to happen but we came back pretty strong.”
The Matildas went ahead in the 28 minute via Gorry’s sublime strike.
Fed with a short pass by Foord, Gorry let fly with a long-distance, first-time shot with the outside of her right.
The curling effort was too good for Jamaica’s England-born goalkeeper Becky Spencer.
The Matildas otherwise lacked finesse and intensity in the opening stanza, and needed a fine save from goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold in first-half stoppage time to prevent the Jamaicans equalising through striker Kayla McKenna.
However, the hosts lifted in the second-half to seal their third win of the tournament with two more goals.
Chidiac doubled the Matildas’ lead in the 56th-minute, before Arsenal star Foord ensured there was no way back for the Jamaicans with brilliant a strike from distance 11 minutes later.
Custodian Arnold, who was later named player of the tournament, produced another superb save in the dying stages to deny Jamaica’s Jody Brown.
Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson admitted his side lacked energy in its third game in the space of a week.
“But what I credit the team for is how they grew into the game,” Gustavsson said.
“They didn’t lose their belief (and) they didn’t lose their heads. Sometimes in a tournament it’s not going to be perfect all the time, but then to find a way to score, to find a way to win, is also tournament football.”
The only concerning aspect of the night was a head knock that led to veteran Matildas defender Clare Polkinghorne not returning after the half-time break.
In Wednesday’s early game, tournament runners up Spain defeated Czechia 3-0.