The Matildas run at the Women’s World Cup in Canada is over after they were beaten 1-0 by Japan in the quarter-finals on Sunday morning.
Playing in stifling conditions, Australia’s clash against the reigning World and Asian champions seemed destined for extra-time with neither side able to break the deadlock for much of the contest.
However a goal to substitute Mana Iwabuchi with three minutes remaining settled the contest as Japan booked a semi-final date with England.
Australia were defending a corner in the closing stages – an area identified as one of their opposition’s strengths following last year’s Asian Cup.
While the ball was originally cleared, a goal line scramble ensued with Iwabuchi turning home from close range after it spilled past the Aussie defence.
Alen Stajcic’s squad were bitterly disappointed at full-time having spent months preparing for the tournament but acknowledged they were outclassed on the day.
“In terms of courage, heart and spirit it was fantastic,” the Matildas coach said at full-time.
“In terms of execution probably not one of our best games. Japan were the better team. It was a scrappy way to score a goal but you can’t say they didn’t deserve their victory.
“They’ve (the Matildas) come such a long way and to take Japan that far in the game shows how far we’ve come.
“At the end of the day it was a scrappy goal off a set piece again unfortunately but we’ve got a lot to build on.
“There’s a core group there that are 21 or 22. If we can keep improving, we shouldn’t be challenging, we should be beating the world’s best.”
The Matildas opened the tournament with a strong showing against the world no.2 USA that saw them go down 3-1, they then beat Nigeria and drew with Sweden to progress from their “Group of Death”.
A Round of 16 win over South American powerhouse Brazil was no doubt the highlight and the young squad will now turn their attention to trying to get a medal at next year’s Olympic Games in Rio.