A proud Alen Stajcic has praised his courageous Westfield Matildas after their epic Women’s World Cup campaign was ended against Japan on Sunday (AEST).
In a heart-breaking result for the Matildas, an 87th-minute goal from substitute Mana Iwabuchi proved the difference in a tense quarter-final clash in stifling Edmonton.
The Matildas’ brave performances have captured the imagination of the entire nation at this tournament, coming through the ‘group of death’ and eliminating Brazil in the second round.
While they weren’t at their best at Commonwealth Stadium, Stajcic couldn’t have been prouder of his young side’s all-out effort.
“In terms of courage, heart and spirit it was fantastic,” the coach told SBS after 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,” Stajcic added.
“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.”
Unlike their first four matches this tournament, the Matildas struggled to maintain possession and build attacks under pressure from Japan’s high-pressing defence.
It contributed to a disjointed performance going forward as attackers Kyah Simon, Lisa De Vanna and Sam Kerr couldn’t build any momentum.
But you couldn’t question the Matildas spirit and organisation in defence, constantly shutting down Japanese forays with crucial tackles and last-ditch interceptions.
Watch the video above to hear what Alen Stajcic had to say at the post-match press conference
“They (Japan) had better calmness and composure on the ball than we did, especially in the first half we just turned it over way too cheaply,” Stajcic explained.
“We got back into the game in the second half for a good 20 or 30 minutes. But again some cheap turnovers cost us possession and corners and eventually we paid the price on one of them.
“(But) I‘m really proud of everyone’s effort. It was really courageous, they ran their legs into the ground but at the end of the day we were beaten by a better team.”
Asked if the grueling temperature played a part in the defeat, Stajcic said: “No not at all”.
“I think technique and skill played a factor, not the heat. They’re technically great players.
“They turned over a lot of ball as the game wore on as well but certainly the early stages they were more composed and made better decisions on the ball and that’s why they deserved to win.”