Embattled might be the best way to describe the Matildas' Algarve Cup preparation.

Arriving only a couple of weeks out of the W-League season, Australia was faced with a myriad of injury concerns, along with several players still in celebration-mode from a phenomenal season with Melbourne City. 

With Kyah Simon, Amy Harrison, Emily Gielnik (last Algarve's top scorer for the Matildas) and the possibility of Caitlin Foord set to return for the Asian Cup, it will be a very different attacking outfit that takes to the field for the Matildas' next tournament.

Hayley Raso, Lydia Williams and Steph Catley will also hopefully be in full-fitness by April.

Winning the Algarve Cup was always the goal, another milestone to add to the Asian Cup and Tournament of Nations in the Matildas' growing trophy cabinet. But they were perhaps lacking slightly in desire - Kyah Simon, upon learning of her injury that would keep her out of the tourmanent, noted that at least it wasn't the Asian Cup. 

Therefore, it was little surprise that the result - albeit solid - was less than spectacular.

Last year the Matildas narrowly missed silverware with a fourth place finish. For coach Alen Stajcic, it would have been nice to see noticeable progression from 2017. Other nations aren't resting on their laurels, under Icelandic head coach, Siggi Eyjolfsson, China are a much-improved outfit.

While the Matildas had thumped the Steel Roses 5-1 in their last friendly on home soil, the Aussies struggled to scrape past Norway 4-3 in blustering conditions, before a 0-0 stalemate against lowly-fancied home nation Portugal made a final appearance all but impossible.

Requiring a 4-0 win against China in the goals-based progression tournament, the Matildas won 2-0 to summarise the campaign; good, but not good enough, and certainly not good enough for them.

Tameka Butt reflected a similar sentiment.

"They definitely put out a stronger foot which made it more difficult for us," she said.

“It was a little bit scrappy on our behalf.

"We had a fair few incomplete passes - that was not like us…We definitely had control of the game but didn’t quite make enough chances.”

As a positive, there were markable improvements to the Matildas defensively since their horror-show in the opening match, where simple defensive errors continuously let the Norwegians back into the fray.

Clare Polkinghorne is a tirelessly solid defender, who adds tenacity and experience alongside Alanna Kennedy, but growing solidity within that partnership is going to be important when facing top-draw Asian or European sides. 

Shutting out the likes of Claudia Neto and Wang Shuang - while playing an attacking brand of football on average pitches - is promising for a second successive Asian Cup win.

Yet balance has often eluded the Matildas under Stajcic, with a heavily-weighted attacking side often proving slightly over-zealous against technical counter-attacking opponents. 

The Matildas now face Portugal again in the third-place decider, a nation they've never won against.