Kerr's Return in Australia vs. France World Cup Quarter-Final
Australia's coach, Tony Gustavsson, emphasized his confidence in reinstating Sam Kerr as a starter for the upcoming Women's World Cup quarter-final against France, provided she receives medical clearance. Kerr, the inspirational captain, had missed three group matches due to a calf injury. In the recent 2-0 victory over Denmark, she made a late appearance off the bench, fueling anticipation among home fans of her increased involvement against France at Brisbane's Lang Park.
Despite Australia's commendable performance without their star striker, including a six-goal tally across the last two matches and an unexpected 3-2 loss to Nigeria, Gustavsson remains unfazed about disrupting the Matildas' momentum. He firmly stated during a press conference, "I definitely would never ever see Sam as a disturbance to the team." He made it unequivocally clear that if Kerr is fit for a full 90 minutes of play, she will be in the starting lineup, a decision supported and understood by the team.
Acknowledging Kerr's stature as a pivotal player, Gustavsson emphasized, "We're talking about Sam Kerr. Whether she is ready to play 90 minutes plus extra time, that's to be decided tonight." In preparation for the crucial match, Gustavsson had the entire squad, including striker Kyah Simon, participate in the last training session. Simon, who has carried a lingering knee injury into the tournament and has yet to see any game time, will also be evaluated by the medical staff.
The significance of this quarter-final extends beyond the pitch, as Australia has never reached the semi-finals of a World Cup. A victory over France would mark a historic achievement for the team. France, having experienced a quarter-final exit in the 2019 tournament as hosts, are now on the other side of the equation, with Gustavsson in a coaching role for Australia. Herve Renard, the manager of France, indicated that the pressure rests on Australia as co-hosts for this encounter.
The upcoming match is poised to attract a capacity crowd at Lang Park and will be broadcast nationwide on free-to-air television. The enthusiasm of thousands of fans across major Australian cities is expected, with live viewing sites set up, and even Australian Rules football spectators in Sydney and Melbourne will have the opportunity to watch the Matildas on big screens within the stadiums.
Ellie Carpenter, a defender for Australia, stressed that the unwavering support from the nation serves as motivation rather than a burden for the Matildas. On the other hand, France perceives their campaign as a disappointment if they exit at the quarter-final stage. According to Lyon fullback Carpenter, "Their mentality is if they're out at a quarter-final, that's not good enough for them." Despite France's anticipated confidence, Carpenter asserted that it would not deter the Australian team.