Sam Kerr produced a moment of football brilliance that sits comfortably alongside that of Tim Cahill against Netherlands at the World Cup in 2014.
Her goal against England in Wednesday night’s FIFA Women’s World Cup semi-final blockbuster will go down as one of the great moments in Australian sporting folklore.
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Kerr, who had been sidelined for most of the tournament with a calf injury she picked up on the eve of the Matildas’ first game before finally returning to the starting lineup on Wednesday, reminded the world why she is considered in the top handful of footballers on the planet with her spell-binding effort.
She bypassed pressure from England captain and Chelsea teammate, Millie Bright, whose attempt at stopping Kerr’s other-worldly strike was futile.
The goal sent the sold-out crowd at Sydney’s Stadium Australia into a frenzy and brought Australia back into the game after conceding a 1-0 deficit.
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But the ecstasy was sapped out of the building just minutes later when England found the back of the net for a second time.
Desperate to hang on, the Matildas created a number of chances to equalise once again and, twice, it was Kerr who was in perfect position to finish it off.
Uncharacteristically though — and extraordinarily so — Kerr missed both shots that she would normally deposit into the back of the net like “bread and butter”, former Matildas star Grace Gill noted on commentary.
She first missed a header from close range after a masterful setup from 20-year-old sensation Mary Fowler before botching an even easier volley chance from the deflection of a corner, about five metres out from goals.
Australians were left stunned by the rare misses from the superstar striker, but none moreso than Kerr herself, who was made to rue the missed opportunities.
After playing limited but increasing minutes against Denmark and France in the round of 16 and quarter-final respectively, Socceroos legend John Aloisi said he thinks playing her first full game of the tournament took its toll on Kerr.
As England celebrate disappointed Australia captain Sam Kerr ponders what might have been. (Dean Lewins/AAP PHOTOS) Credit: AAP
“I will put it down to fatigue a little bit with Sam,” Aloisi said on Channel 7.
“She hasn’t played 90 minutes all tournament, she came on last game and played longer than they expected her to play.
“She made an amazing run to score that goal, and then after that, her legs were probably gone a little bit, and that’s when you start snatching at things. And the two chances she had, she was snatching at them.
“She was very unlucky because she was always a constant threat.
“She did a lot of running tonight, she was trying to stretch the opposition by running in behind, then she was coming to the feet to try and link up, she always had to start the press when they did press. Then probably just her legs gave in at the end and that’s why she wasn’t able to take those opportunities”.
Speaking to Channel 7’s Adam Peacock after the match, Kerr was in no mood to talk about her incredible strike from outside the box.
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Instead, she said it’s the volley she missed that was occupying her mind.
“The one that I missed. The last little bit,” she said, when asked what would replay in her head.
“I think I did everything that I can to be back in this tournament. If I trained more than five times in this World Cup, maybe I would have sunk that one.
“I can’t put all the blame on myself. I have to think of all the things the team have done and I have done to be where we are now and inspire a nation. It is really disappointing.
“It’s been tough. I can’t remember the last time I missed three games in a row. Just had to stick with the girls and they’ve done amazing and just had to focus what I could focus on and then be ready for tonight and the minutes I got over the last two games.
“It’s been an enjoyable ride to be on, I guess regardless of the calf; it’s been an amazing honour to be here.”