The Young Matildas’ run at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup has come to an end following a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Spain at the Estadio Alejandro Morera Soto in Alajuela, Costa Rica.
The current European champions at this age level were clinical in front of goal with Julia Gabarro’s hat trick enough to send Spain to the knockout phase and Australia back home.
Young Matildas’ head coach Leah Blayney made three changes to the starting XI in the opening two games against Costa Rica and Brazil, with Abbey Lemon, Jessika Nash, and Charlie Rule earning starts.
It was a much brighter start for the Australians with Sally James called into action in the first minute, making an acrobatic save to deny Spain from a dream start.
In attack, the Young Matildas were able to press Spain’s defence and cause turnovers high up the pitch.
Bryleeh Henry had Australia’s opening chance of the game. She was allowed to run and dribble down the left flank before moving more centrally and fizzing a strike which was claimed by Adriana Nanclares.
Lemon, in her first start at this tournament, also had a shot on goal after another turnover in midfield thanks to the Australians’ press but her effort ultimately didn’t trouble Nanclares.
Australia had the best chance of the half up until that point in the 17th minute. Sarah Hunter, who donned the captain’s armband, released Abbey Lemon.
Charlie Rule wasn’t able to pounce on Lemon’s pass in but created enough pressure to ensure Spain couldn’t clear cleanly. Daniela Galic was in the right place to send home an opener but fired high.
Spain showed off clinical finishing down the other end to take the lead only a minute later. Julia Bartel cut in and put a pass across the face of goal for Inma Gabarro to tap home for her first of the evening.
Six minutes later, Spain doubled their advantage again through Gabarro. The Young Matildas didn’t shut down a run down the right-hand flank and Gabarro’s smart movement in the box bamboozled Australia’s defence allowing her to score again.
Despite being two goals down the Young Matildas did not drop their heads nor did they stray from how they wanted to play.
Hunter was on set piece duty and her corner kick sailed to the far post where a waiting Henry hit the woodwork.
Just before the half-hour mark, Hana Lowry attempted a long-range effort but her radar was slightly off target.
Spain hit another gear as half time neared with Asun Martinez’s cross-shot hitting the roof of the net and Gabarro inches away from a first-half hat trick.
Leah Blayney injected some fresh legs at the half time break with Sheridan Gallagher and Kirsty Fenton entering the fray for Lemon and defender Jamilla Rankin.
Australia maintained possession well and in the opening stages of the second stanza forced Spain back into their defensive half.
This strong spell was highlighted by a Hunter long-range effort which was calmly claimed by Nanclares. However, just like the first half, Spain was able to head down the other end and make their chances count.
A miscommunication in defence, as well as some half clearances, saw the reigning European champions cause havoc and Gabarro was eventually able to hit the back of the net with a shot that had pace and power.
There were more fresh legs for Australia and for Spain, but the Spaniards had done more than enough to secure passage through to the quarter-finals.