SYDNEY (18 April 2018) – Australian head coach Alen Stajcic is demanding more from his players after seeing the Matildas needing a penalty shootout to beat unfancied Thailand after a 2-2 draw in the AFC Women’s Asian Cup 2018 semi-final.
Just three weeks after putting five goals past Thailand in a pre-tournament friendly, the Matildas narrowly escaped elimination, with Alanna Kennedy’s 91st minute header taking the tie to extra-time before Mackenzie Arnold’s goalkeeping heroics finally won it.
While Australia were successful in becoming the first team to reach three consecutive AFC Women’s Asian Cup finals since China PR in 1999, Stajcic said there were no excuses for their performance.
“I didn’t think it was a great performance at all, and I didn’t think I’d be sitting here as a winner and being so disappointed in ourselves.
“From the head coach to player number 23, I know we’re not happy with our performance and the way we played, so we’ve got a lot of soul searching and reflection to do to see how we can improve (in the final) in three days’ time.
“We have to be accountable for the way we played the game. That goes from me down to the players – it just wasn’t good enough.
“I think you have to be positive about how well Thailand played,” the 44-year-old said.
“I thought they were unlucky not to win the game. Their heart and their spirit was fantastic and they played with everything they’ve got. To hang on for so long and lose by so little, I almost feel for them, because I thought they deserved to win.”
Australia left a number regular starters including Sam Kerr, Emily van Egmond and Steph Catley on the bench for the semi-final, but Stajcic refuted any suggestion his side expected a straightforward win against the 30th-ranked Chaba Kaew.
Stajcic’s opposite number, Nuegrutai Srathongvian, acknowledged her disappointment at losing the match in such a dramatic manner, but pride was the overriding emotion for the Thailand head coach.
“I’m very, very proud of the players today. Everybody played to their responsibilities and up to our tactics and game plan,” she said.
“It’s a pity that we lost, but it’s a big challenge every time we play a top team. As I’ve said many times, we always bring our experience from the past and bring them to the next game.
“This game shows us we have much improvement, even though we still have some flaws, but I’m very proud of our players, because everybody played to their fullest.”
Thailand’s performance against the Matildas gave an indication of their ability to compete with the world’s best.
With her side’s qualification secured, that’s something that fills Nuengrutai with optimism ahead of next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup.
“It’s going to be really interesting going to the World Cup next year,” she said.
“Everything depends on our preparation for the games next year. For this tournament, we’ve had a good preparation, but we’ll keep trying to improve and take our game to the next level.
“It’s going to be really interesting to study and prepare for the best teams in the world, and we can’t wait for the tournament next year.” – www.the-afc.com