The Matildas have kicked off their Cup of Nations campaign with a 2-0 win over New Zealand on Thursday night.

Newly appointed head coach Ante Milicic will be pleased to have started his Matildas reign with three points, as Australia look to move on from the tumultuous past month and focus on World Cup preparations.

From the performance, Milicic’s stylistic goals were made clear: quick, transitional football, encouraging one and two-touch play and keeping the players compact. While Milicic will no doubt imprint his own philosophy on the team, the general blueprint does not seem a huge departure from the Alen Stajcic era. 

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Unsurprisingly, the Football Ferns aimed to nullify star striker and captain Sam Kerr – effectively so, in the end. Kerr was unable to turn as Abby Erceg gave her no space to move. However, Kerr did manage to win a free-kick from which Elise Kellond-Knight hit the crossbar.

The breakthrough after Matildas’ vice captain Steph Catley whipped a ball into the box, finding the feet of Melbourne Victory star Emily Gielnik, who skimmed it past two New Zealand defenders to score her sixth international goal.

In the second half super-sub Hayley Raso stole the show, looking lively and fittingly scored after returning from a severe back injury. Amy Harrison who too had returned from injury provided the assist.

“Ante told me to just have fun and stick to the game plan, we’re all really excited to have him on board,” Raso said post-match on Fox Sports.

The Football Ferns almost found a lifeline when Sarah Gregorius attempted to chip the advancing Lydia Williams, but the Kiwi striker couldn’t direct her shot on target.

With that, Matchday One is done and dusted. Next up, the Matildas head to Brisbane to play the in-form Korea Republic, who in the earlier kickoff defeated Argentina 5-0! 

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Louise Taffa
taffa.louise@gmail.com