After the Matildas’ attack found a way to fire on all cylinders without Sam Kerr, their skipper’s potential inclusion against Denmark shapes as a FIFA Women’s World Cup bonus, rather than a lifeline.
Kerr was ruled out of Australia’s first two games with the calf injury she suffered on the eve of their campaign, then cleared to play limited minutes against Canada in match three.
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But Australia were able to leave her on the bench as a frontline of Caitlin Foord, Mary Fowler, Emily van Egmond and Hayley Raso fired in a 4-0 thumping of Canada.
The extra week’s rest, and Kerr joining her teammates at training on Thursday, will fuel optimism the star striker can play a role against the Danes in next Monday’s round of 16 clash at Stadium Australia.
Sam Kerr shares a laugh at training on Thursday. Credit: Getty Images
“The world has now seen what we can do,” goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold told reporters.
“We always want Sam on the field and she’s a world-class striker, but we’ve shown now that we have the depth and we can play any combination up front that we can still score goals.
“If she plays, she plays, if she doesn’t, she doesn’t. But we have our plan.”
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Kerr’s return would clearly bring a welcome selection headache for Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson.
“That’s a pretty good position to be in for any team,” defender Clare Polkinghorne said.
“It just goes to show how our other attacking options have really stepped up and taken their opportunity and if (opponents) cover one of the strikers, then we’ve got someone else to step up and and take the game.”
On Thursday, Kerr joined her upbeat teammates in stretching to Shania Twain’s Man! I Feel Like a Woman!, lightly juggling the ball and walking a lap at Queensland Sport and Athletic Centre field.
Arnold noted Kerr was following her individual program and “looked quite comfortable doing it”.
It was the Matildas’ first training session after two days of recovery following the Canada clash, and Football Australia had flagged it was always going to be a lighter session.
Sam Kerr had the ball at her feet during the session. Credit: Chris Hyde/Getty Images
Forward Kyah Simon was the only player not on the track during the 15-minute window open to media.
Australia have now turned their focus to Denmark, who they beat 3-1 last October, and despite their ruthlessness on transition, are keen to keep the ball better than they did against Canada.
“They’re a quite possession-based team,” Arnold said of the Danes.
“They like to play football, they like to keep the ball, quite technical. They’ve got Pernille Harder in there as well, who’s quite good at finishing.
“I wouldn’t say we want them to have the ball too much.
“We are dangerous on the counter, so that is always part of our plan. But I would hope that we could keep the ball a little bit better than we did against Canada.”
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