EDMONTON (Canada) - Coach Alen Stajcic admitted his young Matildas need to mature if they are to challenge for the big football titles, after exiting the Women's World Cup with a 0-1 loss to Japan on Saturday.
A late goal from substitute Mana Iwabuchi put the defending champions through to a semi-final in Edmonton on Wednesday with England, who beat hosts Canada 2-1 in Vancouver.
"There's not much you can say after a match like that, it's too soon," said a disappointed Stajcic.
ALL DOWN TO YOU
As the Australian players were tired, I said to Mana when I sent her in: 'You are going to decide it'.
- Japan coach Norio Sasaki on substitute and match-winner Mana Iwabuchi
"All you can do is put your arm around their shoulder, most of them are young players, it's a heartbreaking experience for all of us."
The 41-year- old admitted that the gulf between his 10th-ranked side and fourth- ranked Japan on the pitch at the Commonwealth Stadium was huge.
"They (Japan) were a lot more composed throughout the 90 minutes. In that first 20-minute period, they were technically better than us, we lost a lot of juice chasing the ball around," he said.
"You always have to defend against Japan but when we won the ball, we gave it straight back."
The Matildas had become the first Australian team - men's or women's - to win a knockout game in a World Cup when they dumped former finalists Brazil 1-0 in the last 16.
The Japanese were dangerous but wasted a number of chances.
Coach Norio Sasaki brought on Iwabuchi after 72 minutes, and the 22-year-old forward got the breakthrough in the 87th minute from close range off a corner.
"As the Australian players were tired I said to Mana when I sent her in: 'You are going to decide it'," explained Sasaki.
In Vancouver, England's "Lionesses" bared their claws once again as they brutally ended the campaign of hosts Canada 2-1 to advance to their first semi-final.
They became the first England team of either gender to reach a World Cup semi- final since Bobby Robson's side reached the last four at Italia '90.
Mark Sampson's revamped squad have delivered despite starting their campaign with a 0-1 loss to France nearly three weeks ago.
The sixth-ranked side bounced back with four straight wins over Mexico, Colombia, Norway and Canada - all by 2-1 scorelines - and are now the lowest-ranked, and the only team never to have won the title, left in the tournament.
"We still had that confidence after that first defeat," said Sampson, after Saturday's win built on early goals from Jodie Taylor (11th minute) and Lucy Bronze (14th) which shocked a capacity 54,027 crowd in BC Place Stadium. Canada pulled one back before the break but were unable to unlock England's defence in the second.
"I think that was our big moment of the tournament, the way the players bounced back from that defeat.
"So many teams would have struggled with that, doubted themselves.
"This team stayed strong, stayed together and stuck to the plan and now we find ourselves in a World Cup semi-final.
"The team know now that we need to dig deep against an excellent Japan team to keep ourselves in this tournament."
Germany face the United States in the first semi-final tomorrow, with the final scheduled for Vancouver on Sunday.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN