Co-hosts Australia have to beat Canada on Monday or risk an unthinkable exit from the FIFA Women’s World Cup in the first round.
Australia are sweating on the fitness of star forward and captain Sam Kerr for the Group B game against Canada in Melbourne and where only a win will guarantee them a place in the last 16.
Kerr has missed the Matildas’ two matches so far, in which they beat the Republic of Ireland 1-0 but then suffered a surprise 3-2 defeat against Nigeria.
She has declared herself available after a calf injury but it is uncertain how much of a part she will play against the Olympic champions.
“Everyone involved in sport knows that with calf injuries it’s one thing that you’re available, but there’s also risk when you come back from a muscle injury,” said Australia coach Tony Gustavsson ahead of the game.
Australia are a point behind both Canada and Nigeria, and a draw could only be enough for the co-hosts to go through should the Nigerians lose to Ireland in Brisbane at the same time.
Otherwise they will have to win to avoid suffering the same fate as New Zealand and being eliminated from their home World Cup in the first round.
A draw will do for Canada, whose coach Bev Priestman was not focusing on Kerr’s fitness.
“We’ve spoken about what it takes to beat Australia because Australia is not just Sam Kerr,” she said.
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