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Gung-ho Matildas pay price as defensive frailties exposed in World Cup opener | Ella Reilly

Defeat to Italy begs the question of how this sumptuously talented attack-minded team can also dig in

The Matildas’ day out in Valenciennes was not meant to end this way. A 95th-minute defeat at the hands of a team who have endured a two-decade long World Cup absence was not written in the script.

Ashleigh Barty’s French Open exploits the previous day were meant to pave the way for the Matildas to carry on a weekend of Australian sporting success on European soil. Their opening World Cup game was an opportunity to set down this marker – a demonstration of how they have progressed from defensively challenging match-ups against some of the best attacks in the world in the USA and the Netherlands. Yet questions must now be asked as to how this sumptuously talented attack-minded team can also dig in defensively.

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