(Reuters) – Australia coach Ante Milicic has praised his side’s resilience after they were knocked out of the women’s World Cup last 16 in a shootout by Norway.
A goal down in the first half, the Matildas sent the game to extra time when Elise Kellond-Knight scored with seven minutes left. Australia then had defender Alanna Kennedy sent off in the extra period but still managed to hang on for the shootout.
The Norwegians won the shootout 4-1 to advance to the quarter-finals against either England or Cameroon in Le Havre on Thursday.
“They never gave up, they kept on fighting,” Milicic said.
“They really did things the hard way and in the end, we couldn’t climb the final hurdle.
“Once we lost a player it became difficult.
“I think it was a pretty even game but I’m disappointed with the result.”
The Matildas’ preparations for the tournament were less than ideal with several players not getting regular game time for their clubs, while Milicic was only appointed to the role in February after long-standing coach Alen Stajcic was sacked.
Striker Sam Kerr said the loss was tough to take but the side would only benefit from the experiences they had in France.
“These are the moments where you grow and you become stronger as players and a team,” the 25-year-old said.
“I feel like we’ve let some people down but we’ll be stronger from it.
“It’s been a little bit of a roller-coaster ride for us, but to see where the girls have come and how the team has stuck together and the staff has stuck with us, we’re very grateful for all the support we have.”
Kennedy, who was sent off for pulling down Lisa-Marie Karlseng Utland, questioned the decision to issue her a straight red card, which went to the VAR for review.
“I’m not surprised, the refereeing has been questionable the whole tournament, in terms of the rules and decisions there needs to be more clarity for everyone,” she told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“It’s the way it goes, you have to play to the whistle. But we definitely need more clarity about certain things.”
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Peter Rutherford)