Stajcic ‘proud’ of Matildas as World Cup beckons

The Westfield Matildas may not have returned to Australia with the AFC Asian Cup but the Aussies did not die wondering - and interim coach Alen Stajcic knows it.

The Westfield Matildas may not have returned to Australia with the AFC Asian Cup but the Aussies did not die wondering - and interim coach Alen Stajcic knows it.

Reflecting on the Matildas- performance in the final and how near they came to being crowned the best women-s team in Asia again following their triumph in China four years ago, Stajcic was full of praise for his players.

“I-m extremely proud of our team. I thought we fought right to the end, we had two or three really good chances to score in the first 15 minutes and throughout the second half we were a threat a lot of times,” he said.

“The amount of effort in that last ten minutes when they were out on their feet…they kept pushing forward for that equaliser but I think we were a little but tired and our execution cost us at crucial times, but I thought we were dangerous right to the end and could have got a goal.

“The effort from our players was fantastic. They fought right to the death. Unfortunately we couldn-t get the goal to equalise but I-m just proud with how much they-ve improved in the tournament and hopefully by the time we get to the World Cup next year we can improve that little bit more in our execution and beat those countries like Japan, America and Germany.

“They did everything that was asked of them but unfortunately we just lacked that bit of a killer punch.

“We-ve developed a good bond over the last month. We-ve trained really hard, they-ve tried to adopt our philosophy of trying to attack and be positive and creative and I think we did that in the tournament, so that-s why I-m really proud of them.”

Less than six weeks ago, Stajcic was given the responsibility of preparing the Matildas into and through their title defence of the AFC Women-s Asian Cup in Vietnam, with primary focus on qualifying for next year-s FIFA Women-s World Cup in Canada.

But by the end of the tournament, Stajcic-s thumb print was already beginning to show as he guided the Matildas to their place in Canada while almost trumping favourites Japan in Sunday night-s final, before losing 1-0.

Japan coach Norio Sasaki has held the reigns of their national team since 2008 which, compared to Stajcic-s time in charge, is a massive difference in terms of stamping your influence on a team and the way it plays.

So credit to Stajcic must be given for the job he did.

And with a youthful and talented group at his disposal, Stajcic and the Matildas came agonisingly close twice to beating the reigning world cup champions from Japan.

The Westfield Matildas went down 1-0 to Japan in the final after drawing 2-2 with them early in the tournament, a tournament which saw them play five games in the space of 12 days.

In summing up what he had learnt, the first thing that stands out for Stajcic is the incredible potential the Matildas have to become a major force to be reckoned with.

“The first thing I-ve learnt is that we-ve got a talented group of players,” Stajcic said.

“Out of the starters in the final six of them were under 21 years of age so it-s an extremely young team and hopefully they learn from experiences playing against players like Aya Miyama and Nahomi Kawasumi who are world class, so the more times you play against good teams hopefully the better you get.

“This team has got 12 month of preparation now and hopefully they improve a little bit technically and a little bit tactically so they can challenge the best teams in the world.”

“The signs are looking good for next year and that-s the exciting part.”

While Stajcic-s role has officially ended as the interim position was purely until the conclusion of the AFC Asian Women-s Cup, he has not done his chances of securing the gig on a longer basis any harm.

But when asked about what his future with the Matildas holds, Stajcic has been around football long enough not to pre-empt what will happen.

“It-s a little bit early to think about that,” he said.

“The FFA has got a process they-re going to have to undertake and I-ll wait until that process is complete and then go from there.”

For now, Stajcic just hopes people around Australia are as proud as he is about the character the girls showed in representing their country.

“I think their performances really told the story and no one else can say that they didn-t play with great spirit and fought right to the end of every game.”