Matildas fans pin hopes on Sam Kerr return ahead of World Cup clash with Denmark

Soccer fans will have to wait until Monday night to learn just how much Matildas veteran Sam Kerr will participate in the team’s must-win World Cup match against Denmark.

Kerr on Sunday declared she would be fit to play in Monday’s round-of-16 match, but the team has been tight lipped about her possible involvement.

“I’m really excited,” Kerr told Channel Nine when doorstopped by TV cameras at Sydney Airport. “I will play, yep.”

The Matildas captain earlier posted photos to Instagram of her clearly ramping up her training, but was limited to the stationary bike during the 15-minute window of training open to media on Sunday, which a Football Australia spokesperson insisted was a planned session “off feet” as part of her return-to-play program.

Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson confirmed on Sunday that Kerr was available for selection, but said any decision on how many minutes she will play would be deferred until he met with medical staff ahead of the match.

“We had a nice moment as a team (Saturday) to see her back with boots on and touching the ball, and being with the team in training,” Gustavsson said.

“It was a very good feeling for her, a very good feeling for the players, her teammates, and a very good feeling for me,” he said.

If Kerr does play against the Danes at Stadium Australia, with a quarter-final against either France or Morocco on the line, it will clearly be for limited minutes.

She hasn’t played since injuring her left calf at a training session on the eve of the World Cup opener against Ireland.

But Australia can take heart from how a front four of Caitlin Foord, Mary Fowler, Emily van Egmond and Hayley Raso dominated without her against Canada, while Steph Catley has embraced captaincy with aplomb.

Kyah Simon (knee) made a rare appearance with the main training group, indicating she could also have a role to play on Monday.

Underdog tag

Gustavsson, meanwhile, is adamant the team doesn’t need the underdog tag fire against Denmark.

Australia delivered its best performance of the tournament with a brilliant backs-to-the-wall 4-0 win over Canada in their final group game.

“This team have been very clear going into this tournament that they don’t play to prove anyone wrong or play for external reasons – they play for their reason why and they want something,” Gustavsson said.

“They know even though you might look at the ranking and say we’re favourites, look at those teams ranked 10, 11,12, 13 in the world, look at where the players are playing. I’d say it’s a 50-50 game in that sense,” he added.

“But these players have also proven themselves in a game that is do-or-die, that is backs against the wall.”

Gustavsson said the Matildas need to be “extremely humble and realise that we need to be focused in every single second of that game and be as solid defensively as we were against Canada”.

“It’s going to be a very, very tough game and we need to bring our A-game.”

Australia has mixed results in knockout games under Gustavsson.

At the Tokyo Olympics, it beat Great Britain 4-3 in extra time of the quarter-final, then lost to Sweden 1-0 in the semi-final.

Australia was then knocked out of the 2022 Asian Cup 1-0 by South Korea in the quarter-finals.

“When it comes to how we handle a knockout game, this team have proven over time, especially over the last 10 months, that there’s a maturity and development in the team to handle different types of games, different types of opponents,”  Gustavsson said.

“I look at this game in isolation and I know that the team is ready for it.”

-with AAP

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