A wasteful Australia have crashed out of the Asian Cup in the quarter finals.
Despite The Matildas dominating play and creating multiple clear chances, South Korea scored the only goal of the game to go through to the semi finals.
After being pinned back for much of the opening stages, South Korea almost took the lead with a penalty awarded after a long look at VAR.
Sam Kerr’s scoring touch deserted her in the quarter final. She had scored seven times leading into this game but missed several gettable chances to take the lead before South Korea scored.
Ji So-yun decided the game in the 87th minute with a long range strike that swerved past Lydia Williams and send the Matildas home. It was a wonderful strike, the Chelsea midfielder took full advantage of the space in front of her to cut inside and curl it into the net.
Australia had aimed to win the tournament and the manager and declared the semi finals a bare minimum.
With a World Cup on home soil next year, the examination of the early exit will have to be done quickly. However there are no mysteries as to what caused the loss.
MATILDAS WASTE EARLY MOMENTUM
Australia started dynamically. They dominated possession, and pinned the South Koreans back in their defensive third. Sam Kerr had fours clear chances to score including one that hit the cross bar. Mary Fowler drew a terrific save from the goalkeeper after a six pass move ended on the edge of the box, and had another clear shot from a well worked corner.
All of that was almost undone when Cailtin Foord conceded a controversial penalty late in the half.
Australia have rarely played better attacking football but were unable to finish off those chances. The penalty was missed but, on another day, The Matildas could have been 1-0 down by half time.
Football is often a game of momentum and in the first 45 minutes, Australia did not take advantage when they had it.
NO LUCK FROM THE REFEREE
In the space of a few minutes Australia had two very clear penalty claims denied. First Steph Catley cruised into the area and was yanked back by the arm. It was only a light touch but it impeded her ability to get to the ball. The fact that there was no VAR check was strange at best.
Kyah Simon then charged into the box and got a shot away before being cleaned up with a dangerous sliding tackle. The tackle was late, it was nowhere near the ball and it was studs up. Once more there was no VAR check.
When compared to the very borderline spot kick that South Korea were awarded. The referee was, to put things politely, inconsistent.
Australia had publicly declared that they expected to win this tournament. A quarter final exit is well below expectations. Tony Gustavsson put the pressure on himself before the tournament, encouraging the football public to judge him by his results.
Ironically, Australia played their best football in years in this game. But without finishing their chances they had only themselves to blame.
The Matildas need to rebound quickly. The coach is unlikely to be changed this close to a World Cup once again, but the analysis of this tournament needs to be done urgently yet carefully. There are no more tournaments before 2023.
Australia needs more matches in the lead up to the World Cup. The occasional friendlies are not enough to compete with European nations playing regular competitive qualifiers.
A deep breath also needs to be taken. This was a failure, however it is not the time to panic, but time to assess.
South Korea: 1 Ji So Yun (87m)