Veteran forward Kyah Simon made the cut for Australia’s final squad for the Women’s World Cup despite not playing for nine months due to injury, while coach Tony Gustavsson also called up defender Alanna Kennedy for the tournament on home soil.
The 23-player squad, released on Monday, was headlined by captain Sam Kerr, who will be playing at her fourth World Cup. Defender Steph Catley is the vice-captain, and this year’s tournament will be her third.
Last month, Simon was included in Gustavsson’s provisional squad, receiving a golden chance to make a late push for inclusion. The 32-year-old has not played since October after she tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) while featuring for Women’s Super League club Tottenham Hotspur.
Simon, who has 111 appearances for the Matildas, was released by Tottenham last month. She missed the last World Cup in France in 2019 due to an ankle injury.
Coach Gustavsson said that while Simon would likely not be part of the starting line-up, he could use her as an impact substitute at the World Cup, which is being ho-costed by Australia and New Zealand.
The Matildas begin their Group B campaign against Ireland on July 20 in Sydney before facing Nigeria in Brisbane and Olympic champions Canada in Melbourne.
Talking about Simon, the coach said: “She’s not selected based on where she’s at right now, eight months post-operation, she’s selected on where we think she can be in a month from now.”
“(She is) a game-changer who is good in big games, never shies away, mentally strong and has a phenomenal connection not just with Sam but with the attacking players.”
Blend Of Youth And Experience
Defender Kennedy, who has 108 caps for Australia, was also called up despite her injury-plagued time with Manchester City, while experienced players Ellie Carpenter and Caitlin Foord also made the cut.
Gustavsson selected 15 players who were part of the squad at the 2019 World Cup, where Australia reached the last 16, while seven players are in line to make their World Cup debuts.
Goalkeeper Lydia Williams and centre-back Clare Polkinghorne will become the only male or female Australians to participate in five World Cups.
There was no room for Chloe Logarzo, Larissa Crummer, Emily Gielnik, Amy Sayer, Remy Siemsen or Jada Whyman, but Gustavsson said those players would continue to train with the squad as potential injury replacements.
“Today is the end of a two-and-a-half-year process and the wonderful start of a thrilling new journey for the team,” Gustavsson said.
“Selecting this World Cup squad has been the toughest challenge so far, but the whole coaching and support staff are all completely overjoyed for the 23 players who will represent the nation during this tournament.
“This is a special group of players who, when you see the anticipation around the tournament and level of interest for women’s football, have already sparked a transformation. We can’t wait to get the tournament underway in front of a record crowd of support.”
Captain Kerr said playing the World Cup in front of their home support is a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity”.
“Every time I talk about it, I get emotional because I can’t believe in 20 days, we’re hosting a Women’s World Cup. When I started playing for the Matildas, I would never have dreamt of this. I’m very excited and just want to get started,” Kerr said.
“I’m ready. I want the game to be now. I can’t wait until we walk out of that tunnel at Stadium Australia. It’s going to be amazing.”
Australia’s opening game with Ireland has been sold out, with a record crowd of more than 80,000 expected to fill the stands at Stadium Australia in Sydney. Before the World Cup, the Matildas will face France in a warm-up friendly in Melbourne on July 14.
The Matildas head to the World Cup in good form, having lost just one of their last nine matches. Their best performance at the global showpiece event has been a quarter-final finish, which they achieved in 2007, 2011 and 2015.
Goalkeepers: Mackenzie Arnold, Teagan Micah, Lydia Williams
Defenders: Ellie Carpenter, Steph Catley, Charlotte Grant, Clare Hunt, Alanna Kennedy, Aivi Luik, Courtney Nevin, Clare Polkinghorne
Midfielders: Alex Chidiac, Kyra Cooney-Cross, Katrina Gorry, Emily van Egmond, Clare Wheeler, Tameka Yallop
Forwards: Caitlin Foord, Mary Fowler, Sam Kerr, Hayley Raso, Kyah Simon, Cortnee Vine.
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