Despite carrying a calf injury from the FIFA Women’s World Cup, Matildas skipper Sam Kerr will still participate in Australia’s Olympic Games qualifiers in Perth. However, her playing duration will be noticeably curtailed as she continues to rehabilitate.
Australia’s Matildas are due for games against Iran, the Philippines, and Chinese Taipei. These matches, set to occur on a Thursday, Sunday, and the following Wednesday respectively, bring the group winner one step further – a place in the oncoming qualifiers come February.
Perth natives can look forward to the sight of their esteemed heroine, Kerr, on the pitch. However, Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson revealed on Wednesday that the celebrated striker won’t be on the field for a full 90 minutes in any of the games. The strategy concerning her entry on the pitch – be it as a starter or off the bench – is still under consideration.
As Kerr proceeds with her recuperation process from a damaged calf – an injury that limited her to only four matches, of which three she started, in Australia’s seven World Cup encounters – her time on-field for Chelsea in the new English Women’s Super League season is also being supervised and managed.
“She’s eager to perform before her loved ones, expressing gratitude for their support,” Gustavsson affirmed. “We’d all prefer her on-field presence for the entire match duration. Nevertheless, the health and welfare of our players are our primary focus.
“We need to be extra careful given her recent convalescence from injury and her long spell without a full game, both at club and international level. It’s crucial to avoid cornering her into excessive playing time and instead optimise her time on-field.”
Acknowledging criticism directed his way following the World Cup due to scanty squad rotation, Gustavsson commented that he intends to utilise more players through the triple-header in Perth – where tickets have been completely sold out – in consideration of the hasty succession and overlapping arrival times of players due to offshore club obligations.
Don’t be astonished to witness much more rotation in this tournament compared to the World Cup, Gustavsson advised, accounting for physical strain, player wellbeing and protection.
Gustavsson expressed joy at the prospect of a 100,000-strong crowd cheering on the Matildas across the three games, continuing the team’s streak of 11 successive sold-out home games.
“I am honoured to contribute to something significantly larger than just football,” Gustavsson conceded, voicing his appreciation for the growing national support for the team and women’s football, characterising it as a triumphant measure of success, encompassing much more than just results.
His gratitude also extended to the warmth with which Perth has welcomed the team, along with the anticipated encouragement during the games, terming both as exceptional.