BRISBANE, Australia — Sam Kerr is ready to go, and so the much-needed reinforcements appear to be arriving just in time for co-host Australia ahead of its must-win Women’s World Cup match against Canada.
Kerr and Mary Fowler missed Australia’s upset 3-2 loss to Nigeria but are available for Monday's make-or-break Group B game against the Olympic champions.
“I’m going to be there,” Kerr said Saturday. “I’m going to be ready.”
Kerr trained in soccer boots while participating in her first practice session since going down with a calf injury on the eve of the July 20 tournament opene. She hasn't played a minute yet at a World Cup on home soil.
The 29-year-old Kerr scheduled a news conference at the Matildas’ camp in Brisbane, seemingly to assure Australian supporters that she’s on track.
“I would love to tell you guys everything. It’s going to be down to the wire,” she said. “I’m definitely going to be available, but how we decide to use that is not to be given to the opposition.”
Asked again if she would definitely be fit to play, Kerr responded “yes.”
“I’m feeling good. I was out on the pitch today," she said, “as good as I can be.”
Kerr hurt her left calf in a practice session ahead of Australia's opening 1-0 win over Ireland, but it didn’t become public knowledge until an hour before kickoff when her name was missing from the team sheet for the starting lineup. The almost 76,000-strong crowd at Stadium Australia had been buzzing until the news went around that Kerr would be missing the game.
Her injury status has been a daily topic of news in Australia, where she's been the face of the promotional campaign.
So her availability for the Canada game is a genuine boost. The Matildas captain is Australia’s all-time leading international scorer with 63 goals in 121 career appearances.
“Mentally, it’s massive, Matildas defender Ellie Carpenter said. “It brings so much to our team and obviously also a lot to the opposition knowing that we have Sam available for this game.”
Carpenter confirmed that Fowler also practiced on the pitch Saturday and will be available to take on Canada after recovering from a concussion she sustained at practice two days before the 3-2 loss to Nigeria.
“The way she strikes the ball, the way she can change the game at any given moment," Carpenter said. "We really missed her the other night.”
While the Matildas will have both of their leading forwards available for the first time in the tournament, there's no been indication as to whether they'll start or how many minutes they can play.
“Having Sam available, having Mary available, they’re two of our world-class strikers back in the selection pool,” Carpenter said. “Having them coming into our squad is a massive boost.”
If the Australians win Monday in Melbourne, they're guaranteed a spot in the round of 16 for the fifth consecutive time. A loss could result in Australia becoming the first host nation eliminated in the group stage of a Women’s World Cup. Co-host New Zealand, playing Sunday, is in the same situation. A draw would leave Australia needing Ireland to beat Nigeria for the Matildas to have a chance to advance.
“Last time we played Canada we didn’t get the result but we had four or five players out missing,” Kerr said. “We feel really confident. We’ve grown so much over the last year.”
Luke Winstel is a student at the University of Georgia’s Carmical Sports Media Institute.