Expectations were not particularly high for the Matilda’s heading into the World Cup after they were drawn in the ‘Group Of Death’ alongside the United States, Sweden and Nigeria, but the Australian side produced an outstanding performance that saw them reach the quarter-finals.
The Matilda’s started their campaign with a 3-1 loss to the United Stakes at Winnipeg on June 8, but they put themselves in the box seat to qualify for the second round when they beat Nigeria 2-0 at the same venue four days later.
Australia secured their position in the round of 16 when they drew with Sweden 1-1 at the Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, but confidence was low when they were drawn alongside Brazil in the round of 16.
The Matilda’s failed to be intimidated by their highly-rated rivals and a late goal from star striker Kyah Simon delivered them a famous victory that set-up a quarter-final meeting with Japan.
Japan dominated possession throughout the clash, but the Australian defense hung in bravely before a 87th minute winner from Mana Iwabuchi eliminated the Matilda’s from the tournament.
Stajcic was proud of his young sides performances throughout the 2015 World Cup in Canada, but he believes that the team still has plenty of improvement ahead of them as they build towards the Olympic qualifying tournament next year.
“Most of them are young players so it’s a heartbreaking experience for all of us,” Stajcic said.
“I’m proud of how we performed in a World Cup and I know there’s so much growth.
“We don’t want to compete with the best – we want to beat the best.
“By the time the Olympics come around, we want to take some more steps forward.
“The Japanese girls have been together for five, six, 10 years – they’ve already won a World Cup, Asian Cup and a silver medal at the Olympics.
“Their chemistry’s fantastic and their technique is superb.
“Our players, the bulk of our starting line-up are 20, 21, 22 (years old).
“We’ll get there.”
The final stages of the 2015-2016 AFC Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament will begin at the end of February last year and Australia will fight Japan, North Korea, China, South Korea as well as one other nation for a place at the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil.