You could almost feel the air disappear. The hope. The excitement. The dreams. Australia embraced it all over the past month, and then they were all shattered in an instant.
The tears started flowing almost immediately. On the field, in the stands and in lounge rooms around Australia. This was supposed to be our moment.
In so many ways it was - the record television ratings, the sell-out crowds and the unprecedented support for an Australian women's sporting team.
But when you allow yourself to believe in a fairytale, the fall is brutal.
And, although the players and country are bound to be feeling numb after the 3-1 loss to the world No.4 ranked Lionessess at Stadium Australia on Wednesday night, when the dust settles and the pain abates, it will be clear to see there are plenty of reasons still to celebrate.
They face Sweden in the bronze-medal play-off in Brisbane on Saturday and will still finish higher than any other Australian team ever has at a World Cup.
If they finish fourth, each player in the Matildas' squad of 23 stands to receive $247,000. If they finish third, it will be $270,000.
Attendance records have been broken with the most tickets ever sold at a Women's World Cup.
A sell-out crowd of 75,784 has turned out not one, not twice but three times to watch the Matildas in action at Stadium Australia.
It wasn't that long ago - in 2021 - we were marvelling at the fact that a then record 36,109 people turned out to watch them.
People have not just turned up in record numbers, they have also tuned in.
The Matildas sparked the highest Australian television-viewing figures in more than two decades in last week's 0-0 (7-6) penalty shoot-out win over France.
The Seven Network, the tournament's free-to-air broadcaster, said a peak audience of 7.2 million people tuned in for the match.
Schools across the country have turned turned green and gold as Matildas mania grew.
Football fever has swept the nation, with the Women's World Cup the talking point of every cafe conversation in recent weeks.
There were even controversial calls from politicians for a public holiday should the Matildas go all the way and win the World Cup.
That won't happen now, but female football has finally earned the long-overdue support and respect it deserves.
For pioneers such as Matildas cap No.1 Julie Dolan, who paid to play while paving the way, it has been something they could never have imagined.
"It means so much to me and every pioneering player that has come before," Dolan said ahead of the semi-final.
"The transformation, the exponential growth is just difficult to believe and it's quite surreal. So it's everything that we wanted to see and it's everything that we've dreamed of. It's finally here."
Australian cricket captain Pat Cummins summed it up when he said: "There's a moment, whether it's in sport or something else, that brings the whole of Australia together and that's what it's felt like with this Matildas team."
The pain of the loss is raw, but so much has been gained in such a short amount of time.
The Matildas have played with grit, determination, passion, skill.
They have united a nation.
They have shown young boys and girls around the country what it looks like to play for your country.
"The legacy we wanted to leave throughout this World Cup, to inspire the generation coming through, we've done more than that. I think we've done more than we thought we would accomplish," goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold said after playing a starring role against France to book Australia's place in history.
How that legacy pans out remains to be seen, but hopefully it will equate to continued support for our female sportswomen, increased visibility and one day equal pay.