Canada coach Bev Priestman called on her team to be brave on Sunday and put any noise around Australia skipper Sam Kerr aside for their seismic Women’s World Cup showdown against the co-host.
The Tokyo Olympic champion will power into the last 16 with a win or draw in a high-stakes Group B clash in Melbourne on Monday.
But to do so it must tame a fired-up country hell-bent on victory to guarantee its own progression after being shocked 3-2 by Nigeria last week.
Making matters more complicated, Chelsea striker Kerr, who missed Australia’s opening two games with a calf injury, has declared herself available to play.
With both teams’ fate hanging in the balance, Priestman said she expected Canada to rise to the occasion.
“There’s a lot around about what might come up in front of us, but ultimately I know this team and if we turn up, we can go and get three points,” said the English coach. “The focus is to be brave and bring what we bring and bring it well.”
After Canada played out a sluggish goalless draw with surprise-package Nigeria in its opening match, it rallied from behind to beat the Republic of Ireland 2-1 in a gutsy performance that instilled confidence.
Veteran captain Christine Sinclair appeared to be limping late in that contest but is fit to play, the coach said.
The Matildas, who battled past the Irish 1-0 before losing to Nigeria, must win to stay alive in the tournament. The side will have Kerr back, but it is not clear exactly what part she will play for Tony Gustavsson’s team.
Her fate has dominated headlines in Australia, but Priestman said it had not affected Canada’s preparations.
“Have I spoken about, ‘Is she or isn’t she?’ “No I haven’t,” she said. “We’ve spoken about what it takes to beat Australia because Australia is not just Sam Kerr.
“I want to get three points, that’s all I’m focused on, to move on and into the next game. If that means we knock out the co-host, then we knock out the co-host.”
Even if Canada lose, it will not necessarily be the end of the road. But it will need Ireland to beat Nigeria with goal-difference then coming into play.
Similarly for Australia, a loss and it is out of the tournament. But a draw coupled with Nigeria losing and it would also be decided by goal difference.
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