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Australian women upset powerhouse Spain in World Cup warm-up

A Sam Kerr-led Australia beat powerhouse Spain 3-2 on Sunday in a big confidence boost ahead of the women’s World Cup on home soil this year, stretching their unbeaten streak to six games.

The two sides are both seen as contenders at the showpiece tournament in Australia and New Zealand in July-August, with the ongoing four-team Cup of Nations in Sydney and its surrounds being used as a dress rehearsal.

Cortnee Vine, Clare Polkinghorne and Arsenal star Caitlin Foord all scored in a blistering first half before Olga Carmona and Alba Redondo pulled goals back for Spain in the second stanza.

The Czech Republic earlier beat Jamaica 3-2 at the same Sydney stadium, thanks to a last-gasp winner from substitute Alena Peckova.

Australia came into the clash after thumping the Czechs 4-0 last week, while Spain enjoyed a 3-0 romp against Jamaica.

“I think this is a statement. We’ve treated this game, these games, as a practice for the World Cup and we’ve won two-from-two and hopefully looking at three-from-three in the next game,” said Manchester City winger Hayley Raso.

“I’m so proud of these guys, they (Spain) are such a good team so really happy.”

The Spaniards crushed Australia 7-0 in their previous meeting in June last year, but that was effectively against a B team missing the likes of Kerr, Foord, and Raso.

Since then, Spain has been embroiled in controversy with 15 top players making themselves unavailable for selection over a dispute with coach Jorge Vilda.

While the details remain hazy, they were reportedly unhappy with the locker-room atmosphere and his training methods.

Despite this, Spain came into Sunday’s match unbeaten in five games since the row exploded.

But they were no match for a full-strength Australia in front of more than 17,000 fans and wearing shirts with rainbow-coloured numbers on the back in support of the LGBTQI+ community.

Both sides created early opportunities but it was Australia who struck first in the 11th minute.

The livewire Raso broke down the right and laid off the ball to Vine, who curled a shot from outside the box into the top right-hand corner.

They made it 2-0 five minutes later when Polkinghorne, Australia’s most-capped player, scored from close range.

Kerr had a goal controversially disallowed for offside just before the break, but the third came quickly with the unmarked Foord heading home from a set-piece.

Spain dialled up the pressure in the second half and their efforts were rewarded when left-back Carmona struck a clean half-volley from outside the penalty area and Redondo got a second in injury time.

“We corrected a few of the mistakes during the break and after that the team became more cohesive and attacked more,” said Carmona. “But we leave with a bitter feeling because we wanted to win and we couldn’t.”

The Czechs face Spain and Australia take on Jamaica in the final games on Wednesday.

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