Australia’s World Cup journey was thrilling and inspiring in equal measure but defender Alanna Kennedy can’t help but wonder what might’ve been.
The Matildas were knocked out at the Round of 16 stage in Sunday morning’s 4-1 penalty shootout defeat to Norway, after scores were locked at 1-1 after 90 minutes.
It was the first shootout Australia have encountered in the Women’s World Cup arena, having qualified for the knockout phase for a fourth consecutive tournament.
“We had so much more to give,” Kennedy told Optus Sport. “I'm just disappointed to be out so early in the tournament with such a good team.”
Kennedy, 24, has been a huge leader in defence for the Matildas throughout the tournament, and patrolled the rear-guard excellently against the Norwegians.
However, her night was soured by a red card in the 104th minute for a tussle with Norway forward Lisa-Marie Karlseng Utland.
“You have to bunker in after losing a player, but for the girls to get to penalties shows the character within our team, to work hard to give ourselves a chance,” she said.
“We fought until the end and it just wasn't our day.”
Yallop: There’s a lot of positives we can take
Although Sunday morning’s shootout heartbreak against Norway may sting for a while, the Matildas won’t be returning to Australia empty-handed.
Ante Milicic’s side produced some superb high points throughout their campaign, particularly their memorable 3-2 comeback victory over Brazil in Group C’s crucial second fixture.
That match underlined the fighting spirit of the Matildas, a quality which was evident again on the pitch throughout their Round of 16 loss to the Norwegians.
“We came from two-nil down before [against Brazil] and we came back again tonight, so I think there’s a lot of positives we can take,” midfielder Tameka Yallop told Optus Sport.
“We came up against decent opposition especially in the group stage. Norway was always going to be a tough game.
“We were expecting them to be physical. We went out there to match them and I think we did. It was a battle, and if we controlled the ball on the ground a little bit more we might have had more success.”