Sam Kerr in bombshell selection call for Matildas' semi-final against England

The superstar striker has been selected to make her first start of the Women's World Cup.

Sam Kerr, Mary Fowler and Hayley Raso before the Matildas' semi-final clash with England.

Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson has selected Sam Kerr is his starting side for the semi-final blockbuster against England. Kerr replaced Emily van Egmond when the Matildas' starting lineup was announced on Wednesday night, but Australia lost central defender Alanna Kennedy to illness, with veteran Clare Polkinghorne called upon to partner Clare Hunt.

Kerr hadn't previously started for Australia after coming into the tournament with a left calf injury, featuring as a second half substitute in both the round of 16 win over Denmark and the quarter-final against France. Adding to the enormous level of intrigue around the superstar striker was the fact Kerr was spotted with heavy strapping and ice on her other calf, in a shock development before the England match in Sydney.

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The European champions and World No.4 are set to pose the biggest threat to Gustavsson's side, and the coach admits the decision around Kerr will be particularly difficult. The Matildas coach earlier revealed that if Australia's medical team deemed Kerr fit enough to play 90 minutes then she would definitely start. After all, what coach in any sport would leave their best player on the bench if they were fully fit?

Matildas captain Sam Kerr has been spotted with strapping and ice on the opposite calf to the one that's troubled her at the World Cup. Pic: Channel 9/Getty
Matildas captain Sam Kerr has been spotted with strapping and ice on the opposite calf to the one that's troubled her at the World Cup. Pic: Channel 9/Getty

Kerr's minutes at the World Cup have been carefully managed by the Aussie team thus far and Gustavsson admitted his skipper's 65-minute display in the pulsating penalty shootout win over France took him by surprise. "She pushed through more minutes than we hoped for to be honest," Gustavsson said on Tuesday.

"One of the reasons why we kept her on the bench was that we were uncertain how many minutes she had coming back from that calf injury but also the limited training minutes she had. The way she pushed through was fantastic and impressive both from a mental and physical aspect."

Sam Kerr to start in World Cup semi-final against England

On Tuesday, he provided another telling clue. "She recovered well, she trained today so she's available," he added. However, it was Gustavsson's talk about maintaining the "chemistry" in the Aussie side and finishing the match with their strongest 11 players, that was perhaps an ndication Kerr would again be employed in the super-sub role.

"There'll be a meeting... to see the best starting 11 and the best finishing 11 and whether we plan for 90 minutes or plan for extra time and those type of decisions," the Matildas coach added. "There'll be some tough decisions... but Sam is definitely available for selection."

Every player in the Matildas' squad trained on the eve of the semi-final, with the exception of Kyah Simon (knee), who is yet to feature for the Aussies. Vice-captain Steph Catley - who has led the side superbly in Kerr's absence - has been sporting a compression bandage on her leg but does not appear an injury concern to Gustavsson.

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Midfielder Katrina Gorry, who will bring up her 100th cap in the England showdown, also had a dressing on her right calf. Gustavsson has been ramping up the mind games ahead of Australia's first ever World Cup semi-final appearance, by talking up the "favourites" England and taking the pressure off his own players.

"If you look at rankings, they're favourites. If you look at where their players play, they have starting players in top clubs and top leagues all over the world - not just 11, they have like 15, 16," he said.

"And then you compare to us: we have bench players in those teams. We have players playing in A-League, we have players playing in mid-table teams in Sweden. So if you look at all that and you look at resources financially, obviously they are a massive favourite going into this game. But if you then add the belief we have, but the one thing that we have that they don't have is the support and the belief from the fans and that itself is going to be massive tomorrow."

England counterpart Sarina Wiegman was quick to disagree with Australia's coach. "First of all, I don't think they're an underdog," she said about the Matildas. "They playing at home. The stadium will be really full.

"There's two teams that are very good, very strong, have grown into the tournament. So I think it's going to be very tight and it's going to be very, very competitive and we approach the game as any other game."

with AAP

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