Olympic exit hurts but Matildas can hold heads up high

Two years ago, Germany shocked the world with their 7-1 hammering in the match now known as “Mineirazo”. Now, in the same stadium in Belo Horizonte, could the Matildas inflict Mineiraza?

Brazil v Australia - Quarterfinal: Women's Football - Olympics: Day 7

Source: Getty Images

Such a scoreline was never going to be repeated, but losing to Australia - having already lost to them in the World Cup last year - was unfathomable.

Even more unbelievable? That Marta, the greatest female footballer in history, would miss the all-important fifth penalty. What a save from Lydia Williams.

Australia was now within touching distance of a dream: a spot-kick away from a semi-final. Katrina Gorry would have the honour.

It was all up to little “Mini”. Gorry struck it sweetly - she always does - but she couldn’t beat Bárbara, who somehow guessed correctly. Getting so far off her line probably helped.

Suddenly, destiny was back on Brazil’s side. Marta’s moment was avenged, successfully, when Bárbara’s wrist pushed Alana Kennedy’s shot wide a few minutes later.

It really is a game of inches. An extra inch higher, and Kennedy’s shot was safely home. An inch lower and Chloe Logarzo's late effort would have been the goal of the tournament, instead of thumping the bar.

But just like that, Australia’s Olympic football dream was over. The whole thing ground to a halt. There will be no medal. No visit to the Maracanã. No ticker-tape parade of their own.

Some watching for the first time - the Olympics do bring a whole host of eyes new to our game - may not have understood just how well Alen Stajcic's side played.

And it’s hard to imagine how hard playing in front of 60,000 hostile Brazilian fans would be. But the Aussies didn’t take one step back. They were incredibly tough, right to the end.

Numerous times Australia could have crumbled. Yet never, at least over 120 nerve-wracking minutes before the penalties, did they falter.

The amazing Williams must have been watching videos of Ante Covic in the 2014 Asian Champions League final - she even pulled off a carbon copy of his famous save from that night, miraculously denying Alessandra Alves. Alves was so dismayed she recklessly brought down Logarzo moments later. 

It would have been tempting to stack numbers behind the ball but while the Matildas did spend large parts of the match on the back foot, it wasn’t because they parked the bus.

The team did well to limit the influence of Marta, or at least prevent her from tearing the game to shreds.

When Logarzo turned her Marta inside-out, the referee did the unthinkable and dished out a yellow card. Not that it perturbed the Brazilian - who then took the ball from one end to the other for what would have been goal of the tournament had she fired on target.

It goes to show just how fiercely contested Australia’s group was that both Canada and Germany have made it through to the semi-finals - and will both face each other for the second time in three matches.

Amazingly, Canada won all three of their group matches and will fancy their chances of going all the way from here, especially as neither of the World Cup finalists (Japan and USA) are still in the running.

Of course, there were heart in mouth moments for the Matildas in Minas Gerais. Debinha, Marta and Andressa Alves (again) all had fabulous chances they couldn’t convert. And the wonderful Formiga, who made her international debut 21 years ago, looked every bit the star.

But having held on for so long, and having gotten into a winning position from the spot, this one hurts. It's tough to swallow because the expectation of success in Rio was so high, and this team really was good enough to make it happen.

Tempting as it is to feel underwhelmed because they will come home without a medal, one only needs to look back at their remarkable qualifying campaign, and pushing both Germany and Brazil in the past week, to see what this team has done.

These girls have done us proud again. As they always have done, and always will. 

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4 min read
Published 13 August 2016 at 5:30pm
By Sebastian Hassett