For 45 minutes against Canada on Tuesday the Matildas gave an insight into why Football Australia have stuck by head coach Tony Gustavsson in the build-up to next year's World Cup.
They led 1-0 at the break courtesy of a Mary Fowler goal against the Olympic gold medallists at Sydney's Allianz Stadium.
But by full-time they had fallen to a 2-1 loss in predictable fashion.
The defeat means that less than a year out from the World Cup on home soil, Gustavsson, who was at the wheel for the calamitous Asian Cup quarter-final exit earlier this year, has just one win against any of the world's top 20 sides.
"I think you can see from the 45 minutes that we saw some improvement in that we can dominate a top team and not just compete with them," he said.
"To also be able to do that with six players out - maybe if we had played Canada a year and a half ago we wouldn't have been able to dominate them.
"I don't want to sit here and protect myself but that's how I look at it... but we still need to put a 90-minute performance together."
Australia pressed relentlessly and in turn created chances, arguably deserving more than just a one-goal lead when the half-time whistle sounded.
But in the second half the Matildas were flat and their old defensive frailties were exposed once more, with Adriana Leon taking advantage with a brace.
Since the Olympics they have kept just two clean sheets, both coming in the Asian Cup group stages in games against the Philippines and Indonesia.
Gustavsson has deliberately sought to play against higher-ranked opponents but it feels like he needs a win to keep the growing number of cynics at bay.
"It could have been good for momentum and belief in the team," he said of the second of two losses to Canada in quick succession.
Given the limited windows between now and the World Cup, the Swede has emphasised a desire for his side to prepare for the scenarios they are likely to face.
Leading 1-0 against Canada, however, he resisted the temptation to defend their advantage and opted to push on. Leon's double proved their undoing.
"It's all about momentum and timing in football and we coaches are paid to make decisions without knowing whether it was right or wrong," he said.
"Maybe I could've parked the bus and we still could've conceded two goals and you'd question why I didn't keep pressing.
"I didn't do that because I thought we had enough in the tank."
Gustavsson has reiterated a desire to stick with the same players in the lead-in to the World Cup, starting with their next home game against Sweden in Melbourne in November.
The only question for the AAMI Park crowd will be knowing which Matildas side will turn up.