FIFA Women’s World Cup: A fellow Matildas striker doesn’t think Sam Kerr should start against France

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Two greats of international football believe Sam Kerr must start Australia’s quarterfinal showdown with France, but a fellow Matilda says it would be a “silly” move.

Arsenal legend Ian Wright and former Socceroo Craig Foster both labelled Kerr “the best No. 9 in the world” and critical to the team’s hopes on Saturday night.

Following their round of 16 win over Denmark on Monday, the Matildas are one win away from their best ever World Cup result, a potential semi-final berth on home soil.

Kerr was brought back from her highly publicised calf injury with 10 minutes remaining against the Danes.

While Wright and Foster are now keen for Kerr to play as many minutes as possible, a fellow striker was adamant she should not be brought back into the starting line-up for Saturday’s crunch match.

Emily Gielnik, who was unlucky to miss out on the final 23-player World Cup squad, feels Gustavsson should continue with the line-up he’s been using thus far.

Mary Fowler plus Arsenal teammates Steph Catley and Caitlin Foord have all starred for Australia in Kerr’s absence.

“We’ve adjusted the game plan according to Sam Kerr,” Gielnik told Optus Sport.

“Mary Fowler, it’s not ideal that she’s dropping so deep, but look what she does when she gets on the ball. She only had one thing on her mind when she stopped and turn on the ball.

“The thing about Mary Fowler is when she sees a run it’s at the forefront of her mind and no matter what direction she’s facing she can spin on a dime and whip a ball out there on any type of angle, a reverse pass, whatever it is.

“Then we talked about Caitlin Foord doing something special in this tournament and this is one of those moments. She has (stepped up) in the absence of Sam Kerr.

“It’s been coming, she was just starting to find her feet more and more and more and what’s exciting is hopefully she can keep finding her feet while Sam’s out there as well. She’s back out where she belongs with Steph Catley.

“Steph and Caitlin have this amazing relationship that they’ve built and recently they’ve been able to continue that at Arsenal and it showcases on the world stage.

“My personal opinion – and I’ve been out of the bubble now so I don’t know what Tony G’s going to do – I actually think it would be silly if we started Sam again.”

That take was not shared by Wright, a Premier League and FA Cup winner during his time with the Gunners.

Wright retired as Arsenal’s all-time leading scorer, a mark that was then beaten by Thierry Henry.

“Are you serious?” he told Code Sports. “We’re talking about the best No. 9 in the world.

“With all due respect to whoever is playing up front, if Sam Kerr’s fit, she plays. And if I was the manager, she plays.

“They’ve done brilliantly to get themselves into this situation because they know, at some stage, Sam Kerr’s going to be fit and she’s coming straight back into the team.

“This team know that, this team want that, because they know if it gets to the stage where it’s on the line, she’s going to deliver.”

Australian coach Tony Gustavsson has so far refused to state whether Kerr will be in the starting 11, continuing his approach throughout the tournament of keeping his line-ups very close to his chest.

As the Matildas have done all tournament, they will keep the starting line-up a secret until the last possible minute, when the team sheets are released 60 minutes prior to kick-off.

Foster gave enormous credit to the Australian team for getting this far with the players available.

But he said bringing in Kerr adds “a whole different level” to the team.

“You bring Sam Kerr in, as the best No. 9 in the world, of course it’s a whole different level,” Foster said.

“And that will also allow Emily (van Egmond) to go back in midfield and contribute in attacking midfield where she’s so great.

“It shows the commitment of the players to be doing things they’re not used to doing, in getting through these games.

“But any minutes that Sam Kerr has to play for Australia which don’t put her at risk of further injury, she needs to be on the field.”

Yet with uncertainty still surrounding Kerr’s fitness levels after her lay-off, Gielnik believes she is better suited as a strike weapon from the bench.

“Right now, you’ve got to look at it from a fitness point of view, she’s just coming back from a calf injury, we got her the minutes that she needs, got her the confidence she needs, they’re building her up for these bigger moments.

“You can’t throw her back in the deep end too quickly, just from an injury point of view and a protective point of view.

“The players are doing well, they’ve built a great cohesion now and if you’ve got Sam Kerr on the bench, what a weapon to have.

“She’s a great weapon to have but I think just putting her in there straight away, obviously she’d love to, but you’ve just got to think of the outcome.”



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