Matildas captain Sam Kerr has joined a growing injury list for Australia, ahead of their two friendly matches against Olympic champions, Canada. Kerr's unfortunate run of injuries this year has seen her ruled out of the two games against Canada with a foot injury, with the future of Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson another issue for the Aussie women's football side.
Kerr missed the majority of the Matildas' World Cup group games due to a calf injury, before returning to the side to help the Aussies reach the semi-finals of the tournament for the first time. The Chelsea superstar has hit form for her English club in recent weeks after a slow start to the season, having scored four goals in the last two games - including a hat-trick for the Blues in a 4-1 Champions League victory against Paris FC.
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Kerr's foot injury means she will remain in London for treatment and joins Charlotte Grant (hamstring), Holly McNamara (knee), Courtnee Vine (hamstring) and goalkeeping World Cup hero Mackenzie Arnold as the highest profile Aussie stars missing from the Canada matches. Kerr's place in the squad has been taken by midfielder Sarah Hunter, who earns her first senior national team call-up.
Veteran Matildas defender Clare Polkinghorne is one of only four players who were on hand for the first training session in Canada and admitted the situation was "not ideal" in terms of preparation for the matches against the Olympic champs. Polkinghorne says the team won't be deterred by the setbacks though and insists it presents an opportunity to test the squad's depth.
"Our main priority is having everyone fit and healthy for the Olympics," Polkinghorne said on Tuesday. "We would prefer if everyone was available but that's the reality of professional football. Injuries are part of the game and unfortunately it's happened the weekend leading into these games (against Canada)."
The situation comes as speculation continues to swirl around the future of Matildas coach Gustavsson, who's been linked with the men's head coaching role for his native Sweden. Last week, Gustavsson allayed any fears he is on the move and insists he is fully committed to leading Australia at next year's Olympic Games in Paris.
"I'm passionate about the Matildas and, as I have stated before, I'm fully focused on qualification and participation at the Paris 2024 Olympics," he said. "Our team's journey towards this goal is my primary focus and commitment."
Matildas veteran brushes off issues around coach
Polkinghorne said the coach had not addressed Matildas players about the speculation linking him to the Sweden job. The veteran defender denied the situation was potentially destabilising for the Matildas squad and argued it was actually a positive reflection of the record-breaking contribution that Gustavsson has made on the Aussie women's team.
"I wouldn't say it's unsettling. That's part and parcel of professional football," Polkinghorne said. "If you've had success and done well at the top level, then there's always going to be interest from other parties.
"Whatever is happening outside our circle is not really relevant." Australia will take on Canada in Langford from 2.30am (AEDT) on Saturday before a second clash on December 6 in Vancouver.
The matches offer Canada to exact some revenge over the Matildas' 4-0 thumping of the Olympic champs at the World Cup, kick-started by a stunning first half double from Hayley Raso. "Canada are reigning Olympic champions so there's no letting your hair down against them," Polkinghorne added.
"They're a world-class team and they would not have enjoyed being beaten by us in that fashion (at the World Cup). They've probably got a little bit to prove, bit of redemption. For us, it's going to be about rising to the occasion and spoiling their party."
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