Australian football fans were questioning what the Matildas were doing as they took a bizarre approach during a “harrowing” loss to Spain.

The Matildas have come under fire for their approach to a friendly against Spain after a shocking 7-0 loss on Sunday morning (AEST).

The match in Huelva, in the south-west of Spain, was part of the Aussies’ preparation for the 2023 World Cup but football pundits suggested they learnt nothing from a game that was treated like an experiment, prompting a perplexed response from fans and commentators.

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Spain is ranked five places ahead of Australia in seventh and boasts some of the world’s best players but the gulf in class was exacerbated by some odd tactics from Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson, as the home side was allowed to run rampant in the first-ever meeting between the two countries.

The scoreline can be explained by the fact many Matildas regulars were rested as Gustavsson instead opted to give opportunities to a slew of younger, inexperienced players. It was a strategy that didn’t go down well with everyone.

Optus Sport football presenter Michelle Escobar slammed the Matildas’ tactics and performance, saying it was of absolutely no value to their upcoming World Cup campaign.

“This friendly didn’t achieve anything. No shots on target, 24% possession, 776 passes to 250, 9 corners to 0,” she tweeted.

“Can’t help but think Tony should’ve called up the regulars against a world class Spain to get a better idea of where we’re at, World Cup is only 12 months out.”

Australian football writer Joey Lynch was critical as Spain — who led 2-0 at halftime — kept putting the ball in the back of the net in the second stanza.

“Pretty just melted in the second half. Abdicated the game,” Lynch tweeted. “This has really devolved into a bit of a flustercluck.”

Football reporter James Dodd added: “Spain are a fantastic team but jeez, talk about picking the wrong moment to experiment. That’s a harrowing loss whichever way you look at it.”

Director of Special Projects Football, Elia Santoro, fumed on Twitter, saying “it’s disrespectful” to rest so many stars and questioning why, until now, there’s been so little legitimate criticism of Gustavsson.

“Feeling for our young girls. Even though it’s great experience & will build character, what a load of cr*p that we needed to rest the Matildas. We had 2 fifa window breaks we didn’t utilise FFS. Spain has played more than us & euros coming up also. No one asking Qs of NT (national team) Coach.

“It’s not about the girls but that the coach is not up to it & no one is questioning it. I’m sick of excuses. Why is it different for our men when they have played as many or for that matter any other team. Honestly it’s time we took a hard look at ourselves & the truth.

“Imagine if Graham Arnold had done this. He would be slaughtered by fans & media but hey we can’t say anything about the Women’s Coach & one who hasn’t even spent time in our country to work with young ones plus hosting a WC to boot. Not the players’ fault. They are doing their best.

“One thing that has become obvious more so in the last few years in every facet of (football)️, is that unless you keep your mouth shut, turn a blind eye & BS to protect your position for your own agenda, then you are in the right circles & will progress. Shame on what we’ve become.”

‘Why this, why now?’: Aussie greats take aim

Former Matildas star Thea Slatyer questioned what Gustavsson was trying to achieve by making so many changes, highlighting the uncertainty shown by goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold when she was brought on in the second half.

“She was definitely caught out quite a few times. I’m not sure whether that’s a confidence thing that’s going on there,” Slatyer told Ten in the post-match analysis.

“I know that the amount of changes the coaching staff was making would be quite, in my opinion, frustrating to a lot of the players and they seemed just as confused as I am to what he actually wants in some of those positions.

“That inconsistency is not doing anything for their confidence.

“Unfortunately, there was a few misjudgements there that cost us goals and in the end we’ve come away with a 7-0 loss which is not good for our morale.”

Ex-Socceroo Andy Harper also said what many Australian football fans were thinking.

“A lot of people, devotees of the Matildas … will be thinking, ‘Why this, why now?’” Harper told Ten. “That’s the question that will be reverberating.

“You’re playing against Spain away from home a year out from the World Cup. Iron sharpens iron — so this was iron vs wood, with the greatest of respect

“That second-half collapse is not a discredit to our team, but by my count there are four or maybe five girls out of the NSW NPL (National Premier League), right. And so a year out from the World Cup, is that when we see if girls playing at that level of football can take on six of the top 30 players in the world?

“That’s the question I have. I’m presuming to speak on behalf of your (Slatyer’s) ex-teammates and the greats who’ve gone before — why this, why now, a year out from a World Cup?

“This might have been 20 games ago to start rifling through the options.

“Nevertheless it is what it is for today, and so now he (Gustavsson) has got to pull the team together … but how much damage might have been done today?”

The Matildas next play Portugal on Wednesday in another friendly.

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