Sam Kerr's Olympic hopes rekindled as Kyah Simon-like move floated for Matildas

Tony Gustavsson has form in picking his star players before they're ready to return from ACL injuries.

Sam Kerr and Kyah Simon.
Sam Kerr could still be picked in the Matildas squad if they make the Olympics. Image: Getty

Tony Gustavsson's controversial decision to pick Kyah Simon in his World Cup squad despite the fact she wasn't ready to return from an ACL injury has offered a glimmer of hope for Sam Kerr. Matildas captain Kerr suffered a ruptured ACL during a Chelsea training camp in Morocco this week, which will rule her out for a minimum of nine months.

With the Paris Olympics set to begin in seven months' time in July, Kerr's chances of playing appear slim to none. The Matildas have to beat Uzbekistan in a two-leg playoff in February to qualify for the Games, and they will still be favourites despite being without Kerr.

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And the fact that the football tournament at the Olympics will take place from late July to August could offer Kerr some hope. While ACL injuries usually take a minimum of nine months to recover from, the business end of the football program at the Olympics would be taking place some eight months into Kerr's recovery.

That fact has led to speculation that Gustavsson might be tempted to pick Kerr in his Olympics squad on the off chance she might be ready. Some have even suggested that Kerr's selection would be warranted even if it's just to take a penalty during a shootout.

And Gustavsson has form in that area. He controversially picked Simon for last year's World Cup when she was just eight months into her recovery, hoping that the gun striker could be used later in the tournament.

“I don’t expect her to start the game – I don’t think she’s going to be ready for that – but the game changer off the bench," the coach said at the start of the World Cup. “The [medical and sports science] team have done a phenomenal job to bring her to where she’s at right now. But she’s not selected based on where she’s at right now, eight months post-op, she’s selected on where we think she can be in a month from now."

Sam Kerr and Kyah Simon, pictured here at the Women's World Cup.
Sam Kerr and Kyah Simon at the Women's World Cup. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

The call ultimately backfired when Simon suffered a setback in her recovery after the selection window had closed. But Gustavsson revealed after the tournament that she was available to take a penalty if the Matildas needed her.

Would Sam Kerr be able to take a penalty at the Olympics?

Whether or not he would opt for a similar role for Kerr at the Olympics remains to be seen, but it has certainly sparked an interesting sub-plot. Leading sports doctor Peter Larkins told News Corp on Monday it would be "most unusual" if Kerr was back playing before nine months.

But he said it would be possible for Kerr to take a penalty kick at that stage of her recovery. “The best patients are up and running in a straight line after three months,” he said. “From three to six months you are doing strength work. If she is just doing the penalty shootout, then it’s definitely possible but I don’t know how that would work from a qualification requirement.”

Complicating matters is the fact the Matildas will only be allowed to carry 18 players at the Olympics, compared to 23 at the World Cup. "I'm not happy when I think about potentially announcing the roster for the Olympics, because that's going to be a very, very tough job," Gustavsson said in November.

Also of note is the fact Kerr previously said she "hates penalties" after a number of brutal misses for the Matildas. The skipper slotted her spot-kick when Australia beat France on penalties at the World Cup, but fired over the bar against Norway at the last World Cup in 2019.

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