Australia suffered a significant loss in their unexpected defeat against Nigeria, as they lacked the guidance and goal-scoring abilities of their captain, Sam Kerr.
However, it is uncertain whether Kerr will be able to return and rescue Australia’s Women’s World Cup campaign against Canada.
Currently trailing behind Nigeria and Canada by one point in Group B, Australia will most likely have to secure a win against Canada in their upcoming match on Monday in order to avoid a disastrous elimination and advance to the knockout stage.
Australian striker Kerr, who was absent from the team’s first victory against Ireland, has been unable to play due to a calf injury. Coach Tony Gustavsson did not provide much reassurance to the fans hoping for her return after the team’s 3-2 defeat against Nigeria, who are ranked 40th.
“Obviously it’s going to be the topic today that I’m most likely not to get a confirmation on that until the night before the (Canada) game,” the Swedetold reporters.
“And then we’ll go from there.
“It might even be where we need to test her to see if she can play on game day and that’s how tight it is.”
Australia has been struggling with relying too heavily on Kerr for their attacking power. This issue has been worsened by injuries to her teammates. Mary Fowler, an attacking midfielder, was unable to play in the Ireland game due to a concussion. Additionally, Kyah Simon, a forward, has been out of the tournament as she recovers from a knee ligament injury.
In light of these setbacks, Gustavsson, the coach, decided to trust Emily van Egmond, who took Fowler’s place in the starting lineup against Nigeria. Van Egmond made an impact by scoring the first goal just before halftime, assisted by Caitlin Foord.
However, Gustavsson was unable to provide any solutions as Nigeria quickly took the lead. Australia’s central defender, Alanna Kennedy, managed to score a goal in stoppage time, but it was not enough as they ended up losing 2-1 by the 65th minute. Just seven minutes later, Nigeria extended their lead to 3-1 with a goal from Asisat Oshoala.
Nevertheless, Gustavsson opted to make substitutions in the 82nd minute. He decided to replace winger Cortnee Vine with centre back Clare Polkinghorne, pushing Kennedy up front and bringing midfielder Alex Chidiac into the game a few minutes later.
Unfortunately, these late changes did not have the desired impact, and Australia frequently lost possession by resorting to long balls towards Kerr, who could have potentially made better use of them. Gustavsson acknowledged that the team had practiced with Kennedy as a “double nine,” but admitted that he may have delayed making the substitutions for too long.
“It’s something I’m going to have to review afterwards,” he said.
“I thought we had a good momentum going.”