Kerr back as Australia begin World Cup preparations

BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Chelsea striker Sam Kerr and Manchester City defender Alanna Kennedy have been recalled to Australia’s squad for two matches against the Canadian Olympic champion in September which will kick off the final stage of the Matildas’ preparations for a home World Cup next year.

Kerr, Kennedy and Arsenal pair Steph Catley and Caitlin Foord are among the Europe-based senior players included in Matildas’ 23-man squad after being rested for games against Spain and Portugal in June.

Kerr has scored 59 goals in 110 games for Australia and is one of the undisputed stars of the world game.

Veteran striker Kyah Simon was not considered for selection for games against Canada in Brisbane on September 3 and Sydney on September 6 as she continues to recover from an Achilles tendon injury.

“I’m really, really excited to finally bring the team together again. Then to face Olympic champions Canada…those are going to be huge, massive games for us,” Matildas head coach Tony Gustavsson said. There is excitement around the group of players selected for the next 11 months of our work together ahead of a home World Cup.”

Canada beat Sweden in the Olympic final in Tokyo last year and qualified for the World Cup after finishing second to the USA women’s team at the continental championships.

Gustavsson will bring his best squad to camp for the first time since April and said he ‘wanted to draw a line in the sand after 18 months’ of developing a bigger pool of talent by exposing young fringe players to competition international.

Gustavsson said 17 rookies made their debuts for the Matildas over 18 months, significantly more than the average of around 2 per year over the previous decade.

“We tried to catch up. We shortened the paths of some players, used the senior national team as a development platform, almost,” he said. “Now we’re focusing on the core group of players… (a) smaller talent pool just to focus on the World Cup.”

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Australia Team: Mackenzie Arnold, Steph Catley, Alex Chidiac, Kyra Cooney-Cross, Larissa Crummer, Caitlin Foord, Mary Fowler, Emily Gielnik, Katrina Gorry, Charlotte Grant, Alanna Kennedy, Sam Kerr, Chloe Logarzo, Aivi Luik, Teagan Micah, Courtney Nevin, Clare Polkinghorne, Hayley Raso, Emily Van Egmond, Cortnee Vine, Clare Wheeler, Lydia Williams, Tameka Yallop.

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