Shattered Matilda’s heartbreaking plea to fans
A heartbreaking penalty shootout, a farcical red card, bizarre VAR decisions and the end of a campaign. The Matildas have delivered a heartfelt plea to their fans.
The Matildas clung on for spot kicks despite Alanna Kennedy's 104th-minute dismissal but Sam Kerr and Emily Gielnik botched their penalties for Australia's worst World Cup result in 16 years.
Caroline Graham Hansen, Guro Reiten, Maren Mjelde and Ingrid Syrstad Engen scored their spot kicks, with Steph Catley the sole Australian to net her effort.
"I'm shattered, this is a dream to win a World Cup, to go home now is heartbreaking," Caitlin Foord said afterwards, fighting back tears.
"There's so many emotions right now, it is hard to remember what went on. It was possibly (unfair from the ref) but it doesn't matter now anyway.
"We gave it all we could, a game can go any way, we're a strong group and we stay together. Now we look at Olympic qualification.
"We would say sorry (to the supporters), we appreciate all the support, keep believing in us."
While Australia took the threat of Norway, ranked six places below them at world No.12, seriously, it was never supposed to end this way.
After Kerr went close within the opening 30 seconds of the match, Norway struck a fine opener on 31 minutes when they exposed Australia's weakness in transition.
Karina Saevik's curling pass was just out of Steph Catley's reach, allowing Herlovsen to race onto the ball and finish expertly past Williams at the near post.
The Matildas thought they had a lifeline as halftime loomed, when Maria Thorisdottir leant in to cushion Kerr's bouncing cross, with referee Reim Hussein assessing it as brushing the defender's arms and awarding a penalty. Kerr had the ball on the spot, only for the decision to be reversed after a lengthy video assistant review.
The Matildas fashioned a procession of chances, with Hayley Raso, Tameka Yallop and Kennedy all missing the target.
On 59 minutes, Kerr had the ball in the net only for it to be struck out, correctly, for off-side.
Still Australia pushed and their equaliser finally arrived from the most unlikely of sources in the most unlikely position.
Kellond-Knight, who had just one goal in 108 appearances before kick-off, struck a low curling corner which nestled into the net after somehow evading a throng of players.
The goal also denied 16-year-old Mary Fowler a debut World Cup outing, just as she was preparing to come on.
Norway were giving as good as they got and in stoppage time they spectacularly went close.
Hansen thought she'd avoided extra-time when her curler beat the outstretched Williams but the ball bounced clear by just centimetres off the inside of the post.
The full-time whistle brought relief to everyone at the Allianz Riviera but there was no end to the chaos on the resumption of play.
Kerr botched a one-on-one chance before Vilde Boa Rise drew a fine one-handed save from Williams.
The lion-hearted goalkeeper, who needed treatment after a tumble in the box, made another superb save on 100 minutes to deny Hansen.
After Kennedy's dismissal, Risa then struck the crossbar from more than 30 metres, attempting to lob Williams from long range.
Chances rained for Norway, with senior players Kellond-Knight, Emily van Egmond and Ellie Carpenter joining Kennedy off the pitch as time drew closer. Alas for Australia, they fell victim in the dreaded shootout, the same manner of exit that brought their departure from the 2016 Olympics.
Determined to see the positives, Kerr spoke afterwards of the pride she had for the team.
"We fought back, went down a man," she said. "It sucks to lose on penalties. We will learn from this and grow from this.
"I am proud of the team.
"I think the first half wasn't our best but the second we came out and dominated. We would like to have won it in the 90, but this is how you grow and becomes stronger.
"I feel like we have let some people down. I'm proud of the team, a lot of girls have sacrificed so much to be here. We have stuck together through thick and thin and this has been a rollercoaster ride for us. "