Matildas superstar Sam Kerr remains under an injury cloud but has another seven days in which to prove her fitness for the Women’s World Cup knockout stages.
Kerr was medically cleared to play a role off the bench and prepared to risk further damage to her troublesome left calf if Australia needed her on Monday night.
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But her teammates heeded their captain’s request to get the job done without her, thrashing Canada 4-0 to advance at the Olympic champions’ expense.
It set up a round-of-16 clash between the Matildas and the second-placed team from Group D – likely Denmark or China, but possibly England – on Monday.
“The only words Sam said to the team was, ‘make sure you win without me so I can get another week to try and recover and get healthy’,” Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson said.
“The team responded and said, ‘yes, we will, you sit on the bench tonight and we’ll win for you’.
“You could see that commitment from the players, ‘let’s do it so Sam gets another week’.
“Having that belief as a team (to be without) in my opinion the best striker in the world, which I think Sam is, and still go out and play the fluid football we did against the Olympic champions and score four goals, I think is very impressive.”
There were early signs Kerr was not going to feature against Canada.
The 29-year-old striker was a bystander during the warm-up as her fellow substitutes went through their paces and did not take part in their half-time drills.
But Kerr gave the entire Matildas squad their final pitchside rev-up before the match and was on her feet each time Australia put the ball in Canada’s net.
Nothing was going to stop her taking part in the raucous post-match celebrations in front of packed stands at Melbourne’s AAMI Park.
“Just because Sam wasn’t on the park doesn’t mean she wasn’t in the team tonight,” Gustavsson said.
“The way she leads the team and what she gives to the team off the field as well, not just in the locker room and on the buses, but in the hotel and in the meetings … that is massive leadership.”