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Aug 12, 2022   |  9:56AM AET

Young Matildas start FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup campaign with a win over Costa Rican hosts

Young Matildas start FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup campaign with a win over Costa Rican hosts

The Young Matildas have got off to the perfect start in Costa Rica, defeating the host nation 3-1 in their opening FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup encounter.

While the scoreline suggests a relatively comfortable Australian win, Leah Blayney and her side had to work exceptionally hard against this Costa Rican side.

Australia started the brighter of the two with captain Sheridan Gallagher applying pressure to the goalkeeper, forcing a turnover, and ultimately receiving the ball.

Her audacious, long-range effort needed two attempts from Genesis Perez to be claimed.  

Both sides favoured their right-hand sides in attack as they looked to settle into the match. While neither side created too many opportunities, Costa Rica opened the scoring in spectacular fashion.

At the 19-minute mark, Costa Rican captain Alexandra Pinell unleashed a rocket of a free kick from 35 yards out. It was an early goal of the tournament contender and there was nothing Sally James in the Australian goal could do as the ball sailed over her head. 

The 22,506-strong crowd, that were overwhelmingly pro-Costa Rica, were sent into raptures and La Sele enjoyed a dream start on home soil.

The Young Matildas did not drop their heads and continued to push Costa Rica’s defence in search of an equaliser.

Hanna Lowry was on set piece duty, with her corners, as well as the mass of bodies in the box, creating some chaos for Costa Rica’s defence.

Just past the half-hour mark, Australia entered a period of sustained possession. That pressure was eventually released in the form of a penalty for the Young Matildas.  

Gallagher’s cross from the left-hand side was handballed by a Costa Rican defender and Sarah Hunter stepped up to coolly slot home from the spot.

The Young Matildas then made it two in two minutes with Bryleeh Henry nabbing her first of the tournament.

Sheridan Gallagher’s cross-in from the right-hand side was too hot for Perez to handle. Two Aussie players were ready and waiting to pounce on the parry, but it was Henry’s toe which got the last touch.

The second half saw things start to open up as players tired and the Young Matildas worked their way into the contest even further.

Blayney’s charges began to work the ball a bit better and found some joy when breaking through the lines.

Perez continued to look a little bit shaky and Australia continued to try and exploit this shakiness.

Hunter tried to double her goal tally with a long-range shot. After controlling an attempted Costa Rican clearance with her chest, she took a stab on the half volley, to no avail.

Sheridan Gallagher was also close to adding another Australian goal but was well marshalled as she ran on to a cut back at the far post.

The Young Matildas eventually found their third from a set piece. Lowry’s corner was sent perfectly into the hot spot and Kirsty Fenton was able to head home from close range, though she was none the wiser about the finish with the ball coming off the back of her head.

Second half substitute Charlize Rule had a good chance to make it four but her shot was calmly claimed by Perez in Costa Rica’s goal.

The Young Matildas finished the game looking the more attacking of the two sides and now top Group A after Brazil and Spain shared the spoils in a scoreless draw.

After 5,832 days since Australia’s last match at a FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup it was a happy return for Leah Blayney and her team.

The Young Matildas next face Brazil, the current U20 South American Women’s Football Championship winners on Sunday morning, Australian time. Kick off is at 6am AEST.

Next Match

Brazil v Australia
Date: Saturday, 13 August 2022 (local)/ Sunday, 14 August 2022
Venue: Morera Soto, Alajuela
Kick-Off: 2:00 pm CST (local)/ 6:00am AEST
Broadcast: SBS Australia