Read the stirring message injured superstar Sam Kerr gave her Matildas teammates just before their 4-0 World Cup thrashing of Canada
- Kerr addressed team before crunch match
- Coach Tony Gustavsson praised her message
- Striker now has extra week to prove fitness
Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson says he could see the Matildas’ stunning turnaround in form coming days before they hammered Canada 4-0 in Melbourne.
But he said it was a pep talk from injured captain Sam Kerr to the players before the game which ensured they produced one of the most complete performances of his tenure.
Under immense scrutiny during the week for his tactical decisions and belated substitutions in the 3-2 defeat to Nigeria, Gustavsson said he ‘never, ever doubted’ his players would lift at the last moment to avoid a shattering group stage exit.
The Swedish manager was facing the loss of his job as the Matildas prepared for the reigning Olympic champions, but he said the players’ belief never wavered and he knew they could deliver without captain Sam Kerr.
He suggested Kerr’s absence due to an ongoing calf issue may have even spurred her teammates onto greater heights as they worked to give her an extra week to recover and play at the tournament.
Kerr (pictured celebrating the Canada win with goalie Mackenzie Arnold) won high praise from coach Tony Gustavsson for the message she gave the Matildas before kickoff
The superstar striker (pictured with teammate Alanna Kennedy) now has an extra week to overcome her calf muscle injury before the Aussies’ round of 16 match
‘Part of the reason they were so united and performed the way they did was what Sam said to the team,’ he said.
‘(She said) “make sure you win without me, so I can get another week to train, and recover and get healthy”.
‘I never, ever doubted the players in terms of stepping up today and performing well … I knew the performance was going to be solid.’
Gustavsson stood by his comments before the game that Kerr had been cleared to play ‘limited minutes’ against Canada, but said he had agreed with the captain that she would only be risked if the game was on the line in the final stages.
‘If we can win another week for her, to not risk her, we’re going to try to protect her, and win without her,’ he said.
Gustavsson said Kerr (pictured centre with Emily van Egmond, left, and Caitlin Foord, right) was willing to ‘take the risk’ and play if needed against Canada
Caitlin Foord (right) and Mary Fowler combined for the Matildas’ third goal, which effectively sealed the game early in the second half
‘You could almost see that conviction and commitment from the players … let’s do it (without her).
‘If we would have been in a situation where we would have needed her, she was willing to take that risk and come on, but she was also very clear, let’s not get to that point – and we didn’t, and I think we’re all very happy about that.’
He called the Matildas’ capacity to perform with their backs to the wall a ‘superpower’, but said he had no concern that it took falling to a perilous position to bring the best out of his side.
‘Sometimes you just feel when things are going to go right … being part of this team for three days going into this game, having that feeling, it’s just been a privilege to be a part of it,’ Gustavsson said.
‘The fact it is must-win all the way through (the rest of the World Cup) helps this team, because the pressure will be on every single game.
‘But I also think this team has proven that in other games … I do think there are moments when this team can play that high octane attack and full-on football, even when they’re not up against the wall.’