Matildas early exit brings tough questions

Ante Milicic and Sam Kerr's team - labelled as the Matildas' golden generation - failed to live up to expectations in France.

As the Matildas lick their wounds, calls for a coaching review and further investment in the W-League are front-of-mind takeaways from Australia's heartbreaking round of 16 exit at the World Cup.

Ante Milicic's side were square with Norway at the end of extra time but were dumped out of France after a penalty shootout in Nice, losing 1-1 (4-1).

The team had been labelled Australia's best ever squad at a World Cup, and publicly set their sights on a place in the last four; pushing on from their last three results where the Matildas had reached the last eight.

Instead, the Sam Kerr-led team recorded their worst result at the tournament in 16 years.

Many saw the result coming.

Long-serving boss Alen Stajcic's sacking five months ago saw the team plunged into controversy, and not of their own making.

FFA ousted the coach for overseeing a "toxic culture" within the team and appointed Ante Milicic.

While different views are held as to whether Stajcic should have gone, there's consensus that FFA bungled his sacking.

The Matildas have each maintained they benefited from the coaching switch, and threw themselves into life under Milicic.

"The players bought in ... deeply. That's why they're so cut," Matildas legend Heather Garriock said on Optus Sport.

Garriock said that didn't mean Milicic should be spared criticism.

"Let's congratulate his bravery. He's come into a really bad situation and he's been brave to come in and try and implement his philosophy on the players," she said.

"I don't think he (Milicic) should've come in and changed the whole philosophy from a playing style point of view because you saw the girls were rattled.

"People need to be held accountable because this team should've been in a World Cup final."

Improvements and changes to the W-League seem pivotal in the wake of the loss.

Of the 10 teams eliminated from the tournament so far, just one is European, underpinning the need for investment to keep up with those leading leagues.

As previously reported by AAP, W-League chiefs are meeting with their American counterparts this month to look at possible tie-ups that could enhance both competitions.

Long-serving Matilda Joey Peters called for a major review, saying "we'll have to revisit the mess that happened with the change of coach" but saw the review as a "big opportunity".

"We realise that we need a lot of improvements. W-League, yes. The environments for the players, yes. Coaching I think as well," she said.

"We're going to get left behind unless we take a good, serious look at ourselves."

While those priorities are front of mind for the game's leaders, the Matildas themselves are consoling themselves.

"The next couple of days we'll probably relax a bit and try and get over the emotions," Tameka Yallop said.

"Accept them and get over them. When we get back into camp again we'll review the World Cup and learn from it what we can and try and move forward."

Source AAP

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