Australia, N.Zealand on fire in women’s World Cup tune-up

Striker Sam Kerr will head the team at this year’s World Cup and has her first taste of leadership as Australia hosts the Cup of Nations this week in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne. (Reuters pic)

BRISBANE: A rampant Australia made it two wins in a row under new coach Ante Milicic at the inaugural Cup of Nations Sunday while Argentina slumped to their second consecutive defeat.

A brace from skipper Sam Kerr, Lisa de Vanna’s 46th goal for her country and an Emily Gielnik strike saw the Matildas thump South Korea 4-1 in Brisbane at a tune-up tournament ahead of the women’s World Cup in France.

Earlier, New Zealand bounced back from a loss to Australia last week to down Argentina 2-0, with the South American side leaking seven goals in their last two games.

All four teams have qualified for the World Cup, with Australia, ranked six in the world, seen as a genuine prospect to lift the trophy.

Kerr slammed home a penalty on six minutes and scored another on the half-time whistle, with de Vanna following up on a parried shot to tap home a goal in between.

Ji Soyun scored a beautifully weighed free kick for South Korea before Gielnik put the result beyond doubt with nine minutes left.

“Ante has been excellent. We’re growing in leaps and bounds,” Gielnik said of Milicic who was appointed last month after previous coach Alen Stajcic was dumped amid concerns about “player welfare”.

“We’re on the front foot and it looks promising,” she added.

Against Australia in Sydney last week, New Zealand, ranked 19 in the world, created plenty of attacking opportunities but were unable to convert.

On Sunday they dominated possession but were consistently caught offside until Katie Rood got the breakthrough five minutes into the second half, following up on a deflected save.

The result was sealed in spectacular fashion after 70 minutes when CJ Bott unleashed a 35-yard screamer for her first goal in New Zealand colours.

“It was a little bit scratchy but the positives are that we won the game and came away with a clean sheet,” said coach Tom Sermanni.

“But we know we have some work to do because it was still a little rusty.”

The round-robin tournament wraps up in Melbourne on Wednesday when Australia face Argentina and New Zealand take on South Korea.