It was not the afternoon that many Matildas fans had hoped for.
Australia’s 3-2 loss to the South Americans in Penrith on Saturday took many by surprise, not least the players, whose poor finishing and defensive lapses could cost them a seeded spot at next year’s World Cup.
And today Matildas head coach Alen Stajcic addressed the questions and concerns raised by the upset.
“I think in the first half we were quite good; we controlled the game, we controlled possession, but as we know we gave away one silly error that let them back into the game,” he said.
“We needed to capitalise more in that moment when we were on top. [In the] second half, we lost our way a little bit [after] they got that early goal, with some scoreboard pressure on top of the pressure of the actual game.”
All three of Chile’s goals came from Australian errors, whether poor back-passes, or poor decision-making when defending in the box and Stajcic said: “They’re gonna happen.
"It just so happens that we had two or three in the one game and it’s not what we want. Hopefully, you don’t have two or three in a season, but to have two or three in a game, we certainly gifted a lot of those opportunities to Chile….
"From our perspective, we know we need to be better.”
Despite the role the Matildas played in their own defeat, Stajcic was complimentary to Chile.
“[You] can’t take anything away from an opposition like that," he said. "They came here, they’re away from home, they defended as hard as they could, they capitalised on our two or three errors and came away with the win.
“I never underestimated [them]. They’re a great team. They’ve qualified for the World Cup. They’re a South American country with great pedigree and great passion and emotion about football… [and with] a lot of experience in watching and playing at a high level.
"We knew they’d be a good team.”
Saturday’s performance was an unusual display by a team that has won so many fans through their enthusiastic and dynamic style of attacking football. While the first half saw the Matildas control possession and create chances, the second half was not as inspiring.
“We probably lost our way in the second half in terms of keeping control of the game and possession of the game,” Stajcic said.
“Again, I think it was possibly a combination of the heat and the scoreboard pressure and we just lost our way; that’s something that needs to improve within our mentality, we can’t let an element of the game affect or distract us as much as what it did in Penrith.
“I don’t care whether we’re playing Chile or Thailand or America or Brazil or Japan, we’re gonna go out and try to win every moment. We don’t play for a draw, we don’t sit back, we’re an aggressive team, we’re an attacking team, we have that mindset and that will be the same case tomorrow night. I think that’s why the general public in Australia have gravitated towards supporting our team, because they can see those characteristics within our team and within our players.”
In preparation for the re-match against Chile in Newcastle on Tuesday night, Stajcic was clear that the team’s focus will be on their own performance.
“We have to be better at both ends of the park. We did gift those two or three goals away, and then when we had our chances we definitely didn’t capitalise,” he said.
“Some of our crossing was poor, some of our decision-making in the penalty box in finding the spare player was poor, and unless that improves we’re not going to beat anyone. It’s not something you can address overnight, but it is something that we’re focused on and looking at ways to improve.
“We need to keep backing ourselves and playing the way we know how to play, playing the way we want to play, playing the Australian way.”
Australia take on Chile at McDonald Jones Stadium in Newcastle on Tuesday (November 13) night at 7:30pm.