Is Cooney-Cross the best Matilda no one is talking about? (1:41)

The Far Post podcast discuss the standout performance from Kyra Cooney-Cross against Canada, and how well she fits in the Matildas midfield. (1:41)

  • Marissa Lordanic

Aug 11, 2023, 02:11 AM ET

For Tony Gustavsson there is no question as to what Sam Kerr’s involvement in Australia’s quarterfinal against France will look like if she is fit.

“I want to be very clear here now to say if Sam is fit to play 90 minutes, she’s starting,” Gustavsson told reporters on the eve of the side’s quarterfinal. “There’s not even a question and the team knows it.

“We’re talking about Sam Kerr here, whether she is ready to play 90 minutes plus extra time, that’s to be decided tonight.

“But there’s no question whatsoever that if she is [fit], she’s starting.”

**- Women’s World Cup:Home Squads Fixtures Podcast**

However, that is very big if with her fitness still a question mark.

The Matildas skipper has played only 10 minutes in the first four games of the tournament. A calf injury the night before Australia’s opening match against Ireland cruelled her campaign and saw her sit on the sidelines for the entirety of the group stage.

Asked whether or not Kerr’s return would be disruptive to the team, especially considering they have won three games and scored nine goals without her, Gustavsson was just as clear.

“I definitely would never ever see Sam as a disturbance to the team.”

The moving of the magnets to reintegrate Kerr would likely include dropping one of Mary Fowler or Emily van Egmond who have been the main benefactors of her absence. Both have excelled with goals and assists since being elevated to the starting XI.

Regardless of which options come to fruition, Gustavsson has no doubt that the team will continue to adapt in pursuit of a maiden World Cup semifinal appearance.

“The one thing that this team have shown over the last half a year is that no matter what lineup we start with or the lineup we finish with, they all know it takes 23 in 23.”

While Gustavsson has used the 23 in 23 catch cry repeatedly throughout his tenure, Opta stats have revealed that the Matildas have used the fewest players this tournament – 17 out of 23 – and also given just 19 minutes per game to substitutes, fewer than any other team.

This focus on a core group of players can bring success, as shown by England at Euros in 2022, but can also cause problems regarding fitness and fatigue.

Gustavsson claimed it would be no problem at all, declaring the Matildas “extremely fit”. As for team harmony and managing the emotions and expectations of players who haven’t seen many, if any, minutes, Gustavsson was full of praise for his players.

“They’ve been amazing teammates supporting each other. There’s been no complaints whatsoever in terms of if you start or come off the bench, then know the role and they play the role.”