Sam Kerr in major move as Matildas ready for Canada showdown

After copping major criticism before the World Cup win over Ireland, the injury-hit Matildas have confirmed Sam Kerr will play against Canada.

Sam Kerr speaks at a press conference.

Sam Kerr has given hope to Matildas fans across the country, giving the strongest indication yet that she will be fit to face Canada on Monday to keep their FIFA Women's World Cup hopes alive. All eyes were on Kerr in the wake of the Matildas' brutal loss to Nigeria on Thursday night, with the hosts needing a victory to keep their destiny in their hands.

The Matildas sparked controversy earlier in the group stage after it was revealed at the 11th hour before their tournament-opening clash against Ireland that Kerr had been ruled out with a calf injury. While the move left fans divided, Kerr has refused to definitely say she will play against Canada.

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She said she was 'definitely going to be available', but also said that the decision as to whether or not she would take to the field would 'go down to the wire'. Kerr suffered the calf injury in training two days before the match against Ireland, with the Matildas keeping the injury quiet until roughly an hour before kick-off.

Her absence was notable in the first game but the Matildas, through a penalty from Steph Catley, were able to eke out a win. Their woes were compounded ahead of the game against Nigeria however, with Mary Fowler ruled out with a concussion also sustained during training, with Mary Fowler and defender Aivi Luik both ruled out thanks to seperate incidents.

“I would love to tell you guys everything but … that’s a massive thing that the opposition wants to know,” Kerr told reporters in Brisbane on Saturday. “Like (coach Tony Gustavsson) said it’s going to go down to the wire.

"But I’m definitely going to be available. How we decide to use that is not to be given to the opposition.”

While the 29-year-old appears adamant she will play, her actual availability could rest on a pre-game fitness test. She said Australia's loss to Nigeria had not changed how the team had initially planned to handle the injury.

“The plan has always been the same - miss the first two games and then reassess,” Kerr said. “I was out on the pitch today, as good as I can be.”

Matildas still undecided on Sam Kerr's availability after injury

Australia's hopes of avoiding a crushing group stage exit at the Women's World Cup could rest on 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.

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 left 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.

Sam Kerr.
Sam Kerr was reduced to a spectator for the Matildas opening two games of the FIFA Women's World Cup after injuring her calf two days before their opening match. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

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 on Friday, Gustavsson admitted he had no idea.

“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.” no idea whether or not that will be the case.

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