The pressure is on for Australia. The Australians entered this Women’s World Cup as co-hosts looking to win the tournament on home soil, and quickly struggled.
After losing their star striker Sam Kerr right before the first game, Australia eked out a win over scrappy Ireland, 1-0, before falling to Nigeria, 3-2. Now, the Australians are in a fight for their tournament lives, effectively needing a win over Canada to advance. The good news is that Kerr is back, as she said on Saturday that she would be available against Canada. But she won’t start, her team said Monday just before the game, and it remains to be seen how much she might play, if at all.
The Australians will take all she can give as they try to beat a Canadian team that shares their title ambitions.
Canada vs. Australia
The most anticipated matchup of Group B sees Canada, trying to establish itself as a contender despite a shaky start, facing the host country Australia, a team that faltered in its most recent loss to Nigeria, 3-2. Australia lost three key players to injury ahead of that Nigeria match, including Kerr, its leading scorer and the face of the team who has missed the first two games of this tournament. Kerr, who sustained a calf injury in training ahead of the opening match, said Saturday that she is back training and will be available for the game against Canada.
If Canada wins, Australia is out of this World Cup. Canada has won its last three matchups with Australia, and will also be looking to avoid a loss to have the best shot at advancing to the knockout rounds.
Ireland vs. Nigeria
This is Ireland’s last match in this World Cup, after a loss to Canada eliminated the team last week. Its farewell won’t be an easy one. Nigeria is currently leading Group B after drawing with Canada, 0-0, and upsetting Australia, 3-2. With the Irish exiting regardless, their last act could be playing spoiler — if they shock Nigeria with a win, the Nigerians’ chances of advancing will rely on goal difference.
But Nigeria has proved to be much stronger than its No. 40 ranking would suggest. “I would say that we were underestimated and underappreciated,” Coach Randy Waldrum said on Sunday. As it stands, the Nigerians are poised to make the knockout rounds for just the third time in the program’s history.