Will Sam Kerr start or come off the bench?
It’s the question that has been the biggest topic of debate among football fans over the past week.
Kerr came off the bench late in the second half against Denmark in the round of 16 before she once again was brought on in the second half against France in the quarterfinal match.
Having missed the group stage games after suffering a calf injury a day out from the World Cup getting underway, the Matildas haven’t risked the superstar.
Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson revealed she played more minutes in the quarterfinal match than the team had originally planned for, but said she had pulled up well and was firing to go.
“When it comes to Sam, she pushed through more minutes than we initially hoped for,” he said.
“One of the reasons we kept her on the bench was that we were uncertain how many minutes she had (in her) coming back from the calf injury and the limited training she had.
“The way she pushed through was fantastic and impressive, both from a mental and physical aspect. She recovered well and she trained today so she’s available.”
While the temptation ahead of the biggest game is to rush her back into the starting line-up, Gustavsson arguably revealed his plans with one word.
The coach stated “chemistry” was “key for a team to be successful in a tournament”.
It means the Matildas could head into the Wednesday night clash with the same starting line-up as they’ve used throughout the tournament and inject Kerr off the bench.
Gustavsson has had the luxury of using a settled line-up throughout the tournament, but Aussie fans hoping for an early squad announcement will have to wait until Wednesday night with a final meeting with his staff to decide the starting line-up.
England coach Sarina Wiegman said England had planned for all selection scenarios while ramping up the pressure on Kerr.
“Australia is not just Sam Kerr,” the Lionesses’ coach said. “Yes we have a plan. She can play (from the opening whistle) and she can start on the bench, so that’s the situation.
“Of course she’s a threat – she’s a very good player, so lots of respect, but there is more than Sam Kerr.
“In the end, it’s always a team performance. When a team does really well, and individual can do even better. That’s the same for Australia, that’s the same for England.”
The Matildas will start outsiders for the game at Accor Stadium against the fourth-best team in the world, and while Gustavsson concedes England have plenty of strengths, he says the hosts have one major advantage that can get them over the line.
“If you look at rankings, they’re the favourites,” he said. “If you look at where their players play, they have starters playing in top clubs in top leagues all over the world. Not just the starting 11 – they have 15 or 16.
“And you compare that to us where we have bench players in those teams, we have players in the A-League and we have players playing in mid-table teams in Sweden, so if you look at all that and you look at resources financially, then they are a massive favourite going into this game.
“But, if you then add the belief we have and the one thing they don’t have, which is the support and the belief from the fans. That in itself is going to be massive tomorrow.”
– with Martin Gabor, NCA Newswire