The Opals came to the Czech Republic with high hopes and were confident they could compete with a United States team going through a transitional phase.
But, following an eight-point loss to the Americans in the group stages, the Opals failed to earn another gold medal showdown with the US after their shock quarter-final loss to the host nation.
The Australians did manage to rebound from that devastating setback to knock off world No.2 Russia 78-73 in a classification game on Saturday, while France overcame Korea.
But it was scant consolation after the realisation Australia will miss a major tournament medal for the first time since the 1994 world titles.
"I think it's a real shock, not just to us but to people back in Australia and the whole world," point guard Kristi Harrower told AAP.
"I've talked to friends from other teams and they all said they thought it was going to be us and America in the final again and they thought we were going to give them a push this time.
"But it's not to be and we can only learn from this.
"Four years ago America finished third at the worlds and they came back hungry and on a mission two years later at the Olympics, so we have to do the same thing."
Australia and France met in the group stage, with the French putting up a strong test before the Opals pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 62-52 win.
French coach Pierre Vincent admits he is surprised to be meeting Australia again.
"It is a surprise. I think the United States and Australia are the best teams in the tournament," he said.
"But the Czech team is a really good team and at home they can be dangerous.
"But Australia have an incredible team.
"They have good organisation, they have strong defence, they even have the kangaroo, but we have nothing to lose and we will give our best and we'll see."
There is strong speculation that governing body FIBA is close to scrapping some, if not all, classification games following this event.
Harrower said she had initially wanted to head straight home after the loss to the Czechs.
"Probably yes, but in a way you want to know where you finish," she said.
"You'd rather get a ranking by playing.
"It's hard and I thought I would just like to go home, but it's also good to know if you're going to finish fifth or sixth.
"It's just hard to come back up after such a big disappointment."
By James Dampney, AAP