The only thing more dispiriting than watching the Japanese coach high-five every one of his substitutes after the sixth goal sunk into the back of the net is knowing it was just a matter of time until the seventh.

There's a way to lose and a way not to lose. The Young Matildas just showed us all the worst way to lose a match.

The tactical approach was disgraceful; approaching a do-or-die semi-final for a spot in the U/20 World Cup on the line by holding 10 women behind the ball from the opening minute? It would be almost unforgivable if we were a minnow, let alone a female football powerhouse.

So why did Leah Blayney - who looked bored to tears throughout the match - approach it in this way? We honestly don't know, but 7-0 playing defensively is completely inexcusable.

We look back to the 5-1 shellacking to North Korea in the opening match in the hope that it would provide some reasoning, some obvious defensive fragility that a carefully planned counter-attacking game could excuse...but it doesn't.

We played our very best against the PRK when we were on the front foot. We started the match aggressively, with a high-tempo, gegenpressing philosophy, and we took the lead after 20 minutes.

We then sat back, dropped our heads and shipped goal after goal. A similar story against Thailand: we dominated when we were on the front foot and the second we took our foot off the gas, allowed the Thais straight back into the game.

We couldn't recover momentum after that against the Thais, who have proven themselves to be one of the weaker teams in this competition, so why would we have been able to against the Japanese?

But the more you analyse this match, the worse it gets...


It's equally hard to reconcile the choice to play Mary Fowler - who excelled in games two and three - as a sole striker, completely devoid of support throughout the match.

If she was lightning fast, with a high work-rate then you could obviously sympathise with the decision. But she's not. She's an incredibly technically skilled poacher, with an excellent ability to set quick, powerful shots from tight angles.

In other words, almost exactly the opposite of the role she played tonight.

The one thing we try to avoid in pundity is needless overreactions. We're not world-beaters because we dominate a team one week, the system isn't broken because we shipped five the other.

But if the match against North Korea posed serious questions for the Young Matildas setup, then this answered them. There has to be consequences for conceding 12 goals in two matches against our fellow strongest teams in Asia.

Australian football deserves a lot better than whitewashing results like these. The tactical errors extended beyond the choice of formation.

There was no aggression, no tenacity and we sat far too deep against a side that clearly were not going to give us opportunities on the counter attack...we weren't even set up to counter-attack effectively, we played without out-and-out wingers.

There was no perceptible change in approach after we conceded the second goal. Blayney seemed motionless when the girls clearly needed motivating. Our fullbacks, once again, were exploited ruthlessly.

The decision to switch overnight from a team that played out from the back consistently, to a team that only relied on long-passes and clearances, with nobody there to challenge for them...you get the idea.

So what lessons can we take from this tournament?


This tournament was littered with inconsistencies.

We were inconsistent in our approach within games, where our ability to press and hold possession was stifled by our lack of passing fluidity.

We were inconsistent in our approach between games, where team selection, player positions and tactical approach was all a matter of guesswork.

Perhaps worst of all, we were inconsistent in our determination. After North Korea scored their second goal against us in our opening group match, Chelsea Blissett was running down every ball, throwing her body into every shot and single-handedly keeping us in the game.

After Japan scored their fifth goal, Shadeene Evans was tirelessly pushing down that flank, cutting inside, perilously attempting to give us an option between our shellshocked defensive line and Fowler.

But these moments of individual character were constantly pockmarked by team-wide tepedity, indiscipline and criminally slow reactions.

We have many stars in the making in this team who can be bouyed by the fact that they have long, prosperous futures ahead of them. As we've said before, we wouldn't be so damn disappointed if the level of quality in this team wasn't so impressive.

But no matter how good you are, sometimes you just want to shove your head under the covers and pretend it never happened. The Young Matildas now have this luxury.

FFA and the Young Matildas coaching set-up definitely do not.