Sam Kerr should be kept as a bench player for the next game


The Matildas are through to the quarterfinal stage of the 2023 World Cup after a scintillating 2-0 win over Denmark on Monday night.

After 75,784 fans packed through the turnstiles at Sydney’s Accor Stadium, they were presented with a stunning showing from the Matildas.

While all the talk in the lead up surrounded Sam Kerr and her availability, the rest of the squad got on with the task at hand in superb fashion – for the second-straight game.

Now attention turns to the quarterfinal contest on Saturday, and the biggest question hanging over the head of coach Tony Gustavsson once again centres around Kerr.

A brief cameo showed the superstar striker remains as lethal as ever after overcoming a calf injury that kept her out of all three group games.

And while the noise inside the stadium when Kerr’s number 20 flashed up on the board to be brought on was deafening, Gustavsson shouldn’t be changing his line-up just because she is our best player.

Kerr has the ability to find the back of the net like few others can in the world, but the Matildas have adapted to life without their star striker and have brilliantly clicked into gear.

She came close to finding the back of the net in limited minutes against Denmark after turning her opponent inside out before bursting into the box.

Her shot may have sailed wide of the target, but the patch of play showed that her potency off the bench may is exactly the path the Matildas should be taking for their next hitout.

As good as Kerr can be, the offensive display from the Matildas has gone to another level over their past two games and Gustavsson shouldn’t try and fix something that isn’t broken.

“What I think is important, if a team is going to be successful you can’t only rely on one player,” Gustavsson said post-game.

“I think Sam coming back now could be a good thing because we don’t need to look at her taking over and having everything on her shoulders.

“It’s a team effort and a team tournament, it’s the icing on the cake, it’s that extra that comes in.”

Kerr herself stated after the win that she was ready to return to the pitch against Canada, but the team dominated their opponents and didn’t need the star player.

Her return to the starting line-up would result in one of either Mary Fowler or Emily Van Egmond being sent to the bench, a harsh punishment for two players who have delivered in spades in recent matches.

Channel 7 broadcaster Adam Peacock said the Matildas shouldn’t be changing their team just because Kerr is now healthy.

“I think they stick with what they have and I’d say she comes off the bench at some point. I don’t think it’s worth the risk,” he said on SEN Breakfast.

“The way that they’re playing and the physicality of Emily Van Egmond in that no.10 position with Mary (Fowler) up top, that’s working at this stage.

“But what a trump card to bring off the bench.”

Fowler has become the focal point in the attacking third and the 20-year-old has shown off her immense skill. On Monday night she continually dissected the Danish defensive lines with pinpoint passes, setting up both of the Matildas goals.

Caitlin Foord stole the show against Denmark as she burnt past defenders all night long while Hayley Raso continues to flourish on the opposing wing and again put herself in the perfect position to find the back of the net for the third time in the tournament.

As good as the team has looked offensively, it’s on the defensive side of the ball where they’ve taken things to a whole new level.

After a sluggish outing in their opener against Ireland and then completely falling apart against Nigeria, the Matildas have clicked into gear and shown why they’re a serious threat to reign supreme.

They’ve kept their opponents scoreless in three out of four games as the defensive prowess has come to the party.

But Gustavsson, in an ominous warning to the rest of the remaining nation’s, said they must tighten things up after Denmark created some clear chances.

“One thing we definitely need to get better at moving forward is our positioning in our defensive shape, and also reading the pressure trigger better,” he said.

“We didn’t generate as much press today as we normally do, we need to look into that.

“We did it fix it during the game, it did get much better, but in terms of a 90-minute performance in a quarter-final, no matter who we play, we need to look into that and get back to the way we were defending against France, England and Sweden and Canada, that type of defensive attitude with a little bit more of a pressing defensive mindset.”

Gustvasson went on to give his team praise and stated they’ve become an offensive juggernaut even without the best striker on the pitch.

“But I stress tournament football is about playing what’s in front of you, and find a way. And this team has proven now they can always find a way.

“We’ve scored nine goals, and if you look to our last 12, 14 games that we’ve played, we’ve had a lot of wins and scored a lot of goals.

“As long as we can be solid defensively, we know we have the individual brilliance, we have set plays, we have multiple options as well, not just Sam Kerr, we have multiple options to score goals.”

It’s why the Matildas are no longer reliant on Kerr and why the best path forward, for the time being, is to keep things the way they have been throughout the tournament.


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