Matildas coach smacks down Sam Kerr claim in massive World Cup selection call

Tony Gustavsson has made a huge call on Sam Kerr for the Matildas' quarter-final clash with France.

Tony Gustavsson and Sam Kerr.

Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson has opted against bringing Sam Kerr into his starting side against France after shutting down suggestions it would mess with his side's winning formula. Kerr has played just 15 minutes so far this tournament, coming on at the death in the Matildas' win over Denmark in the round of 16.

The superstar striker blew out the cobwebs and got some running into her calf after being forced to sit out the first three games of the World Cup. Kerr's successful return led to calls for Gustavsson to bring her back into his starting side, however others suggested he should stick with the XI who beat Canada 4-0 and Denmark 2-0.

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The likes of Mary Fowler, Hayley Raso, Caitlin Foord and Emily van Egmond have been on fire amid Kerr's absence. Gustavsson made the huge call on Friday that Kerr would start if she was fully fit to play 90 minutes, however he named an unchanged starting XI for the quarter-final on Saturday.

"I want to be very clear in here now to say if Sam is fit to play 90 minutes, she is starting," he told reporters on Friday. "There is not even a question and the team knows it.

"We're talking about Sam Kerr here. Whether she is ready to play 90 minutes plus extra time, that's to be decided tonight. But there is no question whatsoever that if she is, she is starting."

Gustavsson smacked down suggestions that Kerr's inclusion in the starting side would disrupt the Matildas' rhythm. "They've been amazing teammates supporting each other," the coach said of his players. "There's been no complaints whatsoever in terms of if you start or come off the bench - they know their role and they play their role. And I definitely would never, ever see Sam as a disturbance to the team."

Tony Gustavsson and Sam Kerr during the Matildas' win over Denmark at the Women's World Cup.
Tony Gustavsson gave Sam Kerr 15 minutes in the Matildas' win over Denmark. (Photo by Maryam Majd/Getty Images)

Debate erupts over Sam Kerr's role for World Cup quarter-final

Speaking this week, former Matildas player Emily Gielnik said it would be 'silly' to bring Kerr into the starting side. “Right now, you’ve got to look at it from a fitness point of view. She’s just coming back from a calf injury, we got her the minutes that she needs, got her the confidence she needs, they’re building her up for these bigger moments," she said on Optus Sport.

“You can’t throw her back in the deep end too quickly, just from an injury point of view and a protective point of view. The players are doing well, they’ve built a great cohesion now and if you’ve got Sam Kerr on the bench, what a weapon to have. She’s a great weapon to have but I think just putting her in there straight away, obviously she’d love to, but you’ve just got to think of the outcome.”

But football great Ian Wright was shocked by that suggestion, saying: “Are you serious? We’re talking about the best No.9 in the world. With all due respect to whoever is playing up front, if Sam Kerr’s fit she plays. And if I was the manager, she plays.

“They’ve done brilliantly to get themselves into this situation because they know, at some stage, Sam Kerr’s going to be fit and she’s coming straight back into the team. This team know that, this team want that, because they know if it gets to the stage where it’s on the line, she’s going to deliver.”

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France coach Herve Renard said via a translator on Friday: "Is she (Kerr) going to play tomorrow or not? That's not what worries me."

Striker Eugenie Le Sommer added: "It's true that she's a very big player, very good. She can score lots of goals and she can make the difference but I never focus on one particular player."

The Matildas will lock horns with France at 5pm (AEST) at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane. Channel 7 have made the extraordinary decision to push back the 6pm news by an hour in order to show the entire match on the main channel from 5-7pm.

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