BRISBANE, Australia (AP) – Chelsea forward Sam Kerr and Manchester City defender Alanna Kennedy have been named in Australia’s squad for two games against Olympic champions Canada in September, kicking off the finals of the the Matildas’ preparations for a World Cup at home next year.
Kerr, Kennedy and Arsenal pair Steph Catley and Caitlin Foord are among the senior Europe-based players included in the Matildas’ 23-man squad after being rested for the matches 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 forward Kyah Simon was not considered for selection for the games against Canada in Brisbane on September 3 and Sydney on September 6 as she continues to recover from an Achilles injury.
“I’m really, really excited to finally get the team back together. Then playing the Olympic champions Canada … they’re going to be massive, massive games for us,” Matildas head coach Tony Gustavsson said. “There is excitement around the selected group of players about the next 11 months of our work together in the lead-up to the World Cup.”
Canada beat Sweden in the Olympic final in Tokyo last year and has qualified for the World Cup after finishing runner-up to the U.S. women’s national team at the continental championships.
Gustavsson will have his best team on the pitch for the first time since April and said he “wanted to draw a line in the sand after 18 months” of developing a bigger talent pool by exposing younger, fringe players to the competition international
Gustavsson said 17 rookies had made their debuts for the Matildas over 18 months, far more than the average of about 2 per year over the previous decade.
“We tried to catch up. We’ve short-cut some players’ paths, we’ve used the senior squad as a development platform, almost,” he said. “Now, we’re narrowing the focus on the core group of players … (to) a smaller pool of talent just to focus on the World Cup.”
Australia squad: 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.