She’s the owner of the most important and pored over left calf in Australian sport right now, and speculation over superstar Sam Kerr’s starting prospects for the Matildas’ FIFA Women’s World Cup semi-final against England is still running rife.
But on the eve of the biggest game in Australian football history, coach Tony Gustavsson has declared Kerr is “available”.
UPDATE: Sam Kerr named in Matildas starting line-up to face England.
Watch the latest sport on Channel 7 or stream for free on 7plus >>
Kerr has been eased back into the team on limited minutes over the past two games after suffering a calf injury on the eve of the tournament which ruled her out of playing any role in the group stage of the tournament.
Australia managed to navigate their way through to the knockout stages after finishing on top of Group B without their best player under a careful approach to her return from the injury.
She came on very late in the second half against Denmark in the round of 16 before being injected after 55 minutes of the quarter-final against France.
As it turned out, carefully curated plans for Kerr’s reintroduction back into the team went out the window when 30 minutes of extra time was required against France but, after getting through unscathed, that could now work in Kerr’s favour.
“She pushed through more minutes than we initially hoped for,” Gustavsson said of Kerr’s performance in the quarter-final.
Touching reason ‘adopted Australian’ has pledged Matildas allegiance
Devastating image captures ‘most heartwarming’ moment of the Women’s World Cup
It’s still a mystery whether Sam Kerr will start against England. Credit: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
“One of the reasons we kept her on the bench was that we were uncertain how many minutes she had (in her) coming back from the calf injury and the limited training she had.
“The way she pushed through was fantastic and impressive, both from a mental and physical aspect.
“She recovered well and she trained today so she’s available.”
But whether Gustavsson’s declaration of her availability was in reference to the starting lineup will be kept under wraps until the team sheets are released just before kick-off.
Though he did give one clue away, revealing the importance he placed on “chemistry” as a “key for a team to be successful in a tournament”.
That may hint at inclination towards sticking with the incumbent starting 11, but Gustavvson has repeatedly said at multiple stages throughout the tournament that starting a fully fit Sam Kerr is a no-brainer.
England coach Sarina Wiegman said England have contingencies for all selection scenarios, but there are more players to worry about than just Kerr.
England star Millie Bright and coach Sarina Wiegman say Sam Kerr is not the Matildas’ only threat. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS) Credit: AAP
“Australia is not just Sam Kerr,” the Lionesses’ coach said.
“Yes, we have a plan. She can play (from the opening whistle) and she can start on the bench, so that’s the situation.
“Of course she’s a threat – she’s a very good player, so lots of respect, but there is more than Sam Kerr.
“In the end, it’s always a team performance. When a team does really well, and individual can do even better. That’s the same for Australia, that’s the same for England.”
Wiegman has only lost one game at a FIFA Women’s World Cup.
The Lionesses boss also has just one defeat since taking charge of England.
Gustavsson was involved in both of them.
Gustavsson was Jill Ellis’s assistant when the United States beat the Wiegman-led Netherlands in the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup final.
Tony Gustavsson is looking to plot England’s demise. Credit: Andy Cheung/Getty Images
As Matildas coach, he earned a 2-0 friendly win over England that snapped the European champions’ 30-game winning streak
“First of all, I have to say Sarina – what a work she’s done with every team she’s worked with,” Gustavsson said.
“And it’s no coincidence that she has lifted the best coach in the world three times or so.
“Very impressive coach – her stats talk for (themselves) in terms of tournament football.
“She lost only one game and it’s that game that I was lucky enough to sit on the other bench.
“These players as well in terms of the England players, some of these players played against us in GB (with Hege Riise as coach) when we played them in the Olympics, and we were fortunate enough to win that one as well, and the friendly.
“So that’s good, but this game lives in its own life and she’s going to be very prepared with her team like she always is.
“They’re gonna have a very, very clear plan on how to hurt us and we need to be ready for everything that’s thrown at us.”
Matildas hero brutally snubbed in ‘hurtful’ call
Key detail uncovered in Matildas’ post-match ritual
Sam Kerr, Emily van Egmond and Caitlin Foord celebrate victory against France. Credit: Getty Images
Gustavsson and Wiegman have taken contrasting journeys to reach this point.
Wiegman has been extraordinarily successful since taking over as England boss, winning the Euros and the nation’s love.
Gustavsson, who has worked under Ellis and Pia Sundhage in the past, has been on a rollercoaster ride with the Matildas, both in his tenure and at this World Cup, but his team is hitting its straps at the right time.
“Of course he’s done really well,” Wiegman said.
“It’s not easy.
“Of course, he takes his experience too and how the team grew in the tournament and all the preparations he did with the team before this tournament, I think that helped the team a lot.
“So it’s very clear what they want, how they want to play, and they’re in a good place, just like us.”
– With AAP
‘Extraordinary drama’ sends Spain through to FIFA Women’s World Cup final
Brother of Women’s World Cup star killed in nightclub tragedy
If you’d like to view this content, please adjust your Cookie Settings.