Sam Kerr detail everyone missed in Matildas penalty shootout drama at World Cup

A couple of curious details around Sam Kerr got lost in the chaotic penalty shootout against France at the World Cup.

Seen here, Sam Kerr takes a penalty in the World Cup shootout victory over France.

In the midst of the Matildas' pulsating World Cup penalty shootout victory over France, a couple of curious details around Aussie superstar Sam Kerr went largely unnoticed. The Matildas captain once again came off the bench to a rousing reception in Brisbane, and ended up playing around 65 minutes and scoring a crucial spot-kick in Australia's dramatic triumph in the shootout.

Kerr admitted after the game that she "hates pens" and it probably has something to do with the Matildas' last World Cup penalty shootout when the Aussie skipper stepped up first and fired her shot over the bar against Norway. That was during the round of 16 in the 2019 tournament but four years later in Brisbane, the Aussies and Kerr switched things up ever so slightly.

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This time, Kerr was the third penalty taker as Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson tasked Caitlin Foord and Steph Catley with the first two spot-kicks for Australia. The second change from four years ago was that Kerr took out the risk of blazing the ball over the crossbar by burying her effort hard and low to the right, and into the bottom corner of France's goal.

"At the last World Cup, I just went away from my routine and what I did and I missed," Kerr said. "So this time, it was all about just self-belief and putting it where I normally do.

“Weirdly it was super calm, because we had such a process. Of course it’s stressful on the outside. But we all were really calm, and we had so much faith in (goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold).

“We’ve been doing that all week - all month, really. The process we went through just kept us really calm. In the most stressful moment it was pretty calm actually.”

Sam Kerr gives a fist pump after converting her penalty in the World Cup shootout victory over France. Pic: Getty
Sam Kerr gives a fist pump after converting her penalty in the World Cup shootout victory over France. Pic: Getty

Sam Kerr banishes World Cup penalty demons

Gustavsson was full of praise for his captain and how she stepped up under pressure to banish any demons from four years ago. “Just the fact that she could push through and then step up as a captain, especially after our vice-captain (Catley) missed the penalty kick before,” the Matildas coach said. “She just steps up and buries it. It’s a classic Sam Kerr moment. She carries the team on her shoulder.”

The Matildas' decision to bring Kerr off the bench for a second consecutive game was vindicated, with doubts about how her body would have held up over 120 minutes of football, plus a penalty shootout if she'd started the quarter-final. The big decision now is whether Australia's superstar skipper will start Wednesday night's semi-final against England in what will be the biggest game in Australian women's football history.

"I mean, that's like the million dollar question, right?" Kerr responded to the question after the France win. "But with everything that's been going on, the best thing for today was the plan we did and the plan we followed and when I hurt my calf, the plan was to always like, be ready for semi-final time.

"So I could have started but who knows what could have happened? The girls have been smashing it and absolutely dominating, so I think the plan went pretty well."


When do the Matildas play England in World Cup semi-final?

The Matildas - having made history by winning through to a World Cup semi-final for the first time ever - now turn their attention to trying to topple European champions, England. The Aussies will battle their old enemy on Wednesday night at 8pm in front of a sold-out Stadium Australia in Sydney for a place in the final.

"My belief that this team can do anything had been there before tonight," coach Tony Gustavsson said after the France game. "I genuinely believe this team can create history in so many ways, not just winning football games but in the way they can inspire the next generation and unite the nation. That is why I believe in them so much.

"The No.1 thing is to embrace this historic night and feel that we are united. I said, 'let's bring the families in the circle tonight and bring the nation in', so we can actually embrace and enjoy this moment because that is part of the mental recovery."

Gustavsson said Kerr will definitely start if she is fully fit to play 90 minutes against England but said his main focus now will be to get his players mentally prepared for the biggest game of their lives. "It is more about making sure we are mentally and physically prepared for the semi-final coming up. These players are on a mission."

with AAP

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