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Stajcic laments the one that got away

Saturday, April 21, 2018
Alen Stajcic-Australia

Amman: A disappointed Alen Stajcic expressed his pride in Australia’s performance, after his side suffered a heartbreaking 1-0 defeat to Japan in the AFC Women’s Asian Cup 2018 Final.

In a tournament decider somewhat emblematic of a campaign where the Matildas arguably had the better of all five of their matches, but often failed to find the cutting edge required in front of goal, Kumi Yokoyama’s 84th minute wonder-strike sealed victory for Japan.

Head coach Stajcic praised his side’s effort in the showpiece match, but rued their inability to find the back of the net

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“I thought that was our best performance of the tournament. It’s probably the best we’ve played in quite a long time,” he said.

“Unfortunately we didn’t get the rewards tonight that probably the performance justified. It’s almost the exact opposite to the semi-final where we didn’t play our best and got a winner.

“Tonight I thought the performance was fantastic. All the players dominated within their positions, wherever that was. The back four, the middle three, the front three, we dominated all over the field.

“We created a number of chances and unfortunately we just couldn’t execute on the chance. The one, or two, chances that Japan had, they scored one of them. Unfortunately, sometimes football is a cruel game.

“It was a wonderful goal and that was enough to win Japan the competition. I congratulate them on their win – it was a fantastic goal.

“For us - a lot of positives to take away from the match and I couldn’t be any happier or prouder of the way we played today.”

The Matildas came out firing in the final, creating a number of solid chances in the early stages; the best falling to Elise Kellond-Knight, who was denied from the penalty spot by Ayuka Yamashita in the 15th minute.

Australia’s loss means that all three of their major tournament appearances under Stajcic have ended in elimination by a single Japanese goal.

“There’s a couple of games where we’ve lost 1-0 to Japan in the last three or four years, but today didn’t look like those games,” he asserted, before paying tribute to Asako Takakura’s side.

“In those games Japan dominated us, but today I thought it was the other way around, but in football the score matters and they scored an unbelievably well-taken goal, so full credit to Yokoyama and their team for their hard work. They deserve it.”

Reflecting on the tournament as a whole, Stajcic acknowledged that his side hadn’t been at their blistering best in Jordan, and highlighted their lack of effectiveness in the final third as the area which requires the most attention.

“We haven’t played our best football at different times. We’ve definitely lacked that cutting edge in the penalty box, and that’s something we have to improve,” he conceded.

“There’s not one game here that we didn’t dominate. Even the Thailand game where we were poor, we should have won that game as well, but the other three group matches we pretty much dominated the entire contest. So there’s a lot of good things to take away.

“But for us we set ourselves the objective of winning this tournament. So I know that on behalf of all the players we’re very disappointed that we didn’t win tonight.

“Football is a cruel game sometimes. We played poorly and won in the semi-final and tonight we played well and lost. That’s football.”

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