Sam Kerr at centre of brutal revelation after Matildas loss at World Cup

Australia is in serious danger of crashing out at the group stages of the Women's World Cup.

Pictured left to right, Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson and superstar captain Sam Kerr.

Co-host Australia's hopes of avoiding a crushing group stage exit at the Women's World Cup could rest on Sam Kerr and the most scrutinised calf in Australian sport right now. Unfortunately for the Matildas, under-fire coach Tony Gustavsson admits he won't know whether his star striker is available for Monday night's crunch final group game against Canada until the day before or even as late as match day.

Gustavsson has copped a wave of criticism after the shock 3-2 defeat to Nigeria on Thursday night that left the Matildas' hopes of progressing to the knockout stage hanging in the balance. Australia's coach was criticised for waiting until the 82nd minute to make the first substitution and not bringing on Alex Chidiac earlier, with the lively forward looking dangerous when she did finally take the pitch.

'HURTING': Truth about commentator's 'sexist' remark about Matilda

'SO STRESSED': Sam Kerr's 'worry' about facing girlfriend at World Cup

Sloppy defending allowed Nigeria to come from behind and score three times, while the Matildas once again looked toothless in attack without Kerr. The loss leaves the Aussies third in Group B on three points, behind Nigeria (four points, +1) and Canada (four points, +1), with a win against the Olympic gold medallists almost essential if they hope to avoid an early exit.

A draw against the Canadians almost certainly won't be enough, with Nigeria playing the winless Ireland in their final group game. Even if the Matildas had drawn with Nigeria it would have given them some wiggle room and Kerr more time to recover from her injury.

Now the Matildas face the dilemma of whether to gamble on playing their superstar captain against Canada or risk exiting the tournament without her playing a single minute. On the evidence from the first two games, the Matildas hopes appear to hinge on whether Kerr is fit enough to play and at this stage, Gustavsson admits he has no idea whether or not that will be the case.

Sam Kerr fitness call to go down to the wire

“All I can say now is that I hope so,” he said in response to the very first question of the post-match press conference about whether Kerr would play on Monday. “I know it’s going to be tight. I said in a press conference yesterday... I most likely will not get the confirmation on that until the night before the game. And then we’ll go from there.

“It might even be (the case) where we need to test her to see if she can play on game day. That’s how tight it is, I know that, I can say already now so everyone knows what it’s like.

“I know we’re going to get questions from now all the way to the game, but I can say already now I’m not going to be able to tell you that until either the night before the game or on game day, because that’s how long we’ll have to wait to see if she’s available or not.”

The Matildas will be desperate to have forwards Sam Kerr and Mary Fowler back for their final Women's World Cup group game. Image: Getty

Fellow forward Mary Fowler should return from concussion against Canada and will be a welcome inclusion after the Matildas lacked a clinical edge against Nigeria. However, it's the availability of Kerr that seems essential to Australia's hopes of beating World No.7 Canada, with Gustavsson admitting his star striker will be desperate to play no matter what.

“Of course she will (insist on playing)," he added. “That’s going to be her mindset and that’s what I love with Sam. She’s going to do anything she can to be out there, I know that.

“She wants to be out there and she deserves to be out there. If she can be out there, she will be out there.

“We just need to plan for 90 minutes together if she’s available. I’m saying if, now. We need to come up with a plan together with the staff, together with Sam to see what’s the best to maximise the potential minutes she has going into this game if she’s available.”

with agencies

Sign up to our newsletter and score the biggest sport stories of the week.