Australia head coach Tony Gustavsson says Sam Kerr is in a race against time to make her injury comeback against Canada on Monday.
The Chelsea striker has missed the first two World Cup matches versus the Republic of Ireland and Nigeria with a calf problem and Gustavsson has confirmed they will make a late call on whether to select her in the Matildas’ final group game:
“Most likely we won’t be able to give an answer until the day before the [Canada] game. We want to wait until the last minute to see where she’s at in terms of availability. We have been as open as we can be to say it is a calf injury that is going to be reassessed after the Nigeria game. Me personally, I don’t know more than that as of now – I am just focusing on the players I have available and I know that’s how Sam wants it as well.”
After Australia suffered a shock 3-2 defeat to Nigeria, though, Kerr’s availability could be vital to ensuring the team qualify for the knockout stages.
State of play in Group B
As things stand, the Matildas are third in their group with Monday’s opponents Canada a point above them in the table. A win would see them qualify for the last 16. A defeat will knock them out, while a draw would take things out of their hands.
If Kerr’s team only pick up a point, they would need Ireland to do them a favour and win by two clear goals against Nigeria.
Kerr’s fitness remains shrouded in mystery
Gustavsson is keeping his cards close to his chest regarding the forward’s return against Canada but former Socceroos star Robbie Slater is less than convinced that Kerr will be available to play next week. Writing in the Daily Telegraph, he said:
“Why can’t we get exact news and a real update on her (Kerr’s) injury?’ She is the face of the World Cup. I don’t think you need to play mind games with the possibility of a round of 16 return or later, just come out and say it. The whisper is she won’t play at all. A calf tear is typically a four-week injury.”
If the rumours that Slater is hearing turn out to be accurate, it would be a hammer blow to the Matildas’ chances of progressing in the competition.