Kerr, who is widely considered the best striker in the world, sustained a calf injury ahead of the Matildas’ opening match a few weeks ago and has only played 10 minutes of this tournament so far. She came on at the end of round of 16 match against Denmark after the team already led 2-0.
Australia coach Tony Gustavsson said on Friday that Kerr’s availability would be determined later that evening by the coaching and medical staff. He said if the 29-year-old captain was cleared to play a full 90 minutes, then she would start.
“If Sam is fit to play 90 minutes, she’s starting,” Gustavsson told reporters. “That’s not even a question. And the team knows it. We’ve talked about Sam Kerr, and whether she is ready to play 90 minutes plus extra time? That’s to be decided [Friday night]. But there’s no question whatsoever. If she is [ready], she’s starting.”
Instead, Gustavsson is rolling with the same starting lineup he used in the round of 16 victory, which includes Emily van Egmond and Mary Fowler starting up top. Gustavsson said a few times in the lead up to this match that Kerr’s availability would “challenge me in some decision-making” because “a lot of people deserve to start.” Steph Catley will wear the captain’s armband with Kerr on the bench, as she has done in previous games.
Now the host nation will anxiously wait to see how Gustavsson builds up Kerr’s minutes in this game. Will she come on at halftime or before? It likely will depend on how the game unfolds.
While Australia has reached the quarterfinal without Kerr on the field, her teammates have stated confidently that they would much rather have her on the pitch rather than sitting on the bench.
“Sam is the best striker in the world,” van Egmond said this week. “There’s no other way to look at it other than that.”
The Matildas are hoping to make history Saturday night by clinching a spot in their first-ever World Cup semifinal. France, meanwhile, is trying to advance to the semifinal for the first time since 2011. Les Bleues have been eliminated in the quarterfinals the past two World Cups.
Laken Litman covers college football, college basketball and soccer for FOX Sports. She previously wrote for Sports Illustrated, USA Today and The Indianapolis Star. She is the author of “Strong Like a Woman,” published in spring 2022 to mark the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Follow her on Twitter @LakenLitman.
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