Australia’s first match at the Women’s World Cup turns out to be a sell-out event in Sydney. But the absence of captain Sam Kerr is a big loss.
Clash at lunchtime – at least from a German perspective: The Women’s World Cup will enjoy its first real highlight when the opening match between co-hosts Australia and Ireland kicks off at 12pm on Thursday (20.07.2023) in Sydney, Australia.
With Australia – the fourth Olympic Games in 2021 – to see one of the biggest tournament favourites, the excitement will be huge. It’s been weeks since the 80,000-plus seater “Stadium Australia” was sold out, and the “Matildas” fans, as Australia’s team is called, will put on a big show. The World Cup will really heat up for the first time.
Kerr hurts his calf
However, just before kick-off, the hosts got some bad news. Goalscorer Sam Kerr did not play in the first two group games. According to the announcement, he suffered a calf injury during the final training session. “I wanted to share this with everyone so there’s no distraction from what we’re trying to accomplish here,” Kerr wrote. The national team’s medical department will reassess the Chelsea striker’s condition after the second group game against Nigeria on July 27, the federation insisted an hour before kick-off.
Favorites Australia, underdogs Ireland
Can the game deliver on what the impressive setting promises? Australia are rated better than World Cup debutants Ireland, especially in terms of playing technique. Defender Alana Kennedy was confident ahead of her first competitive appearance: “We’re not only a strong team, we’re solid technically and tactically,” she said.
In September 2021, Australia lost 3-2 to Ireland in a friendly in Dublin – Kennedy needn’t have worried: “We had a big tournament behind us, brought in new players and played a different game – it was a completely different time.” She thinks: “Definitely at the moment we are a very stable team as a collective and we want to go into the biggest tournament to date.”
Sam Kerr – a legend
Sam Kerr’s absence at the start was undoubtedly the worst for the team. The almost legendary Australian striker scored five goals in four games at the 2019 World Cup, including four against Jamaica. Since then, she has not let go of her scoring prowess.
The Chelsea forward has scored the most goals in the English Women’s Super League (WSL) since the start of January 2020, scoring 54 goals in 67 games. After two years as England’s top goalscorer, he recently finished fourth in 2022/23 with 12 goals and helped Chelsea to their sixth league title. Now he is hoping to make a comeback at the World Cup in his home country.
Ireland goes for health
Australia, coached by former USA assistant coach Tony Gustavsson, certainly has great individual quality with players like Kerr and his strike partner Caitlin Forte (Arsenal).
However, Ireland should not be underestimated. Ireland, coached by Dutchman Vera Pauw, play mostly in the top English league. In Katie McCabe they have a captain and leader who, so to speak, dictates the classic Irish score.
Katie McCabe – Queen of Yellow Cards
McCabe – who grew up in humble circumstances with nine siblings in the Irish capital Dublin – like Ford plays for Arsenal. But not every weekend. On average, he collects the most yellow cards of any player in the WSL and has had to sit out a ban at times.
Accordingly, the 27-year-old recently strongly called for the yellow card to be overturned: “Football is a physical game and physical exertion should not be punished in this way.”
Niamh Fahey: “We’re under no pressure”
Having pulled out of their recent friendly against Colombia because their opponents were too tough, Ireland will challenge Australia with their physicality.
Niamh Fay also announced this. The 35-year-old Liverpool defender is undaunted by Australia’s huge support from the stands: “The big crowd will spur us on even more. We have no pressure. When the ball is rolling, we will throw everything to beat Australia.”
Facts about the game
– Matches against each other: first comparison
– FIFA Rankings: Australia 10th, Ireland 22nd
– Best World Cup result: Australia – quarter-finals 2007, 2011, 2015; Ireland has yet to play a World Cup match
– Fun fact: Forward Mary Fowler has an Irish father. His siblings Gaomin and Ciara played for Ireland in their youth.
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