The mystery of missing Matilda Alanna Kennedy has been revealed.
The star defender was a shock absentee from the semi-final loss to England, and it was originally put down to ‘illness’.
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But now Football Australia has confirmed Kennedy is suffering delayed concussion symptoms stemming from Australia’s bruising clash with France in the epic quarter-final.
The centre-back took several heavy knocks in that game and she hit the deck when her head was knocked by France striker Eugenie Le Sommer. In the drama-filled penalty shootout that ultimately decided the battle, Kennedy, notably, was the only player not to take a penalty kick.
Now, Football Australia has also revealed that the Matildas will be without Kennedy for their FIFA Women’s World Cup third-place play-off against Sweden on Saturday.
Kennedy was knocked about during the clash with France. Credit: /Getty Images
Kennedy’s absence is a huge blow to Australia’s hopes of winning the play-off at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Saturday.
The 28-year-old’s aerial presence, leadership, aggression and organisation were sorely missed in the 3-1 defeat to England on Wednesday, with her replacement Clare Polkinghorne unable to provide the same impact.
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Kennedy’s presence in defence and at attacking set pieces will again be missed against Sweden, whose central defender Amanda Ilestedt has proved a threat at both ends of the park during the tournament.
Polkinghorne, Aivi Luik, Steph Catley and Courtney Nevin are the options to replace Kennedy in central defence.
The Matildas looked weary against England after playing 120 minutes plus penalties against France, and are dealing with a tight, three-day turnaround to the play-off.
Tireless midfielder Katrina Gorry trained away from her teammates in Friday’s final session, with her left leg in a pressure wrap.
Coach Tony Gustavsson could need to turn to Alex Chidiac, Clare Wheeler or Tameka Yallop for a spark in midfield against the Swedes.
Gustavsson has shown little faith in his bench throughout the tournament, but he may have no choice given the kilometres his starters have pushed through across their first six games.
The defender will be sorely missed in the thrd-placed playoff. Credit: Getty Images
Australia have already gone further in a World Cup, men’s or women’s, than ever before by reaching the semi-final and are determined to come home with the bronze medal up for grabs.
After falling short to the USA in the bronze-medal match at the Tokyo Olympics, the Matildas have some insight into how to pick themselves up off the canvas and go again.
“It’s extremely important,” attacker Caitlin Foord said.
“The first thing that came to my mind was the Olympics when we fell short and then we battled for the bronze-medal match.
“Nothing hurt more than losing that game.
“So we have that in the back of our mind going into this game and we deserve to go home with something from this tournament.”
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– With AAP
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