Australia captain Sam Kerr will miss the Olympic Games in Paris after failing to recover from an anterior cruciate ligament injury in time for the team's upcoming friendlies. 

The Chelsea forward suffered the injury during a mid-season training camp in January, leaving her participation in serious doubt.

Kerr represented the Matildas at the 2016 and 2020 Olympics, also playing at four World Cups and four Asian Cups during her international career.

On Tuesday, Football Australia confirmed Kerr will not make the Olympic tournament – which begins on July 25 and ends on August 10 – while announcing the squad for two matches against China this month.

"Attacker Amy Sayer (ACL) and forward Sam Kerr (ACL) remain on the sidelines with long-term injuries," a statement from the governing body said. 

"Kerr and Sayer will continue their rehabilitation programmes in their home club environments and subsequently will not be available for selection for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games."

Kerr, who is Australia's record scorer with 69 goals, was limited to just seven starts in the 2023-24 Women's Super League, contributing four goals and three assists for the eventual champions. 

It has been a difficult week for Chelsea and their boss Emma Hayes.

After seeing their Champions League dreams dashed by holders Barcelona on Saturday, they had no margin for error when they travelled to Liverpool in the Women's Super League on Wednesday.

Six points behind Manchester City with two games in hand but an inferior goal difference, the Blues needed three points to stop Hayes' final season in charge from totalling unravelling.  

But there was to be no respite for the Blues, who were at one point tipped for a quadruple but have been stuck in a downward spiral since losing Sam Kerr to an anterior cruciate ligament injury during the winter break.

Matt Beard's Liverpool put on a tremendous display to win 4-3, with Gemma Bonner scoring a stoppage-time equaliser to leave Hayes certain the title is out of reach.

"I think the title is done," she said after Wednesday's game. 

"Of course mathematically it's not, but I think the title is done. Our job between now and the end of the season is to keep pushing until the end, but I think it will be very difficult.

"This team has done a tremendous job in my time here to push for titles. 

"I don’t know if we have ever conceded four goals in a half before. Three from set pieces is just unforgivable. But I'm going to credit Liverpool."

Chelsea now need an almighty collapse from City, who may only require three points from their remaining two matches to seal the title, if their goal difference advantage holds firm.

Hayes believes fighting on multiple fronts has not helped her team, adding: "We looked exhausted but I don't want to make excuses. 

"I want to remind our fans how much success we have brought over the years. It's just not to be this year."

Next up, Chelsea face relegated Bristol City in their final home game before Hayes departs to take the United States job, with City taking on Arsenal in Sunday's headline fixture. 

Chelsea head coach Emma Hayes has said she let herself down with comments on relationships between players and was wrong to use the term “inappropriate”.

Hayes said in a news conference on Thursday that player-coach relationships should be banned in the Women’s Super League and that player-player relationships were also “inappropriate”.

Chelsea defender Jess Carter, who is in a relationship with team-mate Ann-Katrin Berger, later liked a tweet claiming it was “beyond bonkers to bring player/player relationships into the conversation”.

Chelsea striker Sam Kerr announced her engagement with West Ham’s American midfielder Kristie Mewis last year.

After Chelsea’s WSL win against Arsenal on Friday night, Hayes, who has won six WSL titles since taking charge in 2012, said she regretted her comments.

Hayes said: “Of course Jess and I have had a conversation about that.

“I’m supposed to be the most non-clickbait coach and so I let myself down yesterday.

“I don’t think it was right for me to use the term inappropriate for the players.

“When I have honest conversations I don’t take things back but I have zero criticism of any player in my dressing room for anything regarding their status or who they’re in a relationship with.”

On Thursday, Aston Villa boss Carla Ward said a manager should be sacked for having a relationship with a player, calling it a “complete abuse of power”.

Hayes was one of several other WSL head coaches who claimed coach-player relationships should not be allowed.

When asked if a ban should be part of a wider WSL code of conduct, Hayes said: “Yeah, I think so. There are challenges that we should be moving past.”

Emma Hayes insists Chelsea are fully standing behind Sam Kerr after it was revealed the striker had pleaded not guilty to racially aggravated harassment of a police officer.

The Australia captain was charged with causing a police officer harassment, alarm or distress during an incident in Twickenham, south-west London, on January 30 last year, according to the Crown Prosecution Service.

Kerr, of Richmond, denied the charge at a plea and trial preparation hearing at Kingston upon Thames Crown Court on Monday.

Blues boss Hayes said: “Sam has our full support. She knows that. It’s a difficult time for her.

“Of course I can’t comment, you know that. I can say I know she’s pleaded not guilty and I don’t want to do anything to jeopardise anything for Sam by speaking about it.

“For that reason, I’m sure you can appreciate that’s all I’m going to say on the matter, but she has our full support, she knows that, it’s really important I get that across. It’s something I really, really, value.

“There’s difficult moments, tough times, and that’s what my role is at this football club, to make sure I look after our people, and I want to make it clear that Sam will be supported by me and everybody else.”

A Metropolitan Police spokesperson said the incident involved an officer who was responding to a complaint about a taxi fare.

Kerr is due to face trial next February, according to reports.

The 30-year-old is two months into a lengthy period on the sidelines after sustaining an anterior cruciate ligament injury during the Blues’ warm-weather training camp in Morocco.

Four-time defending Women’s Super League champions Chelsea are still on course to be the only English side other than Arsenal’s women in 2006-07 to achieve a quadruple, having secured a place in Thursday night’s Conti Cup semi-final with Manchester City and will play their FA Cup quarter-final at Everton on Sunday.

Leg one of their Champions League quarter-final awaits at the end of the month, while the Blues are also square with City on 37 points at the top of the WSL table, leading the pack only on goal difference.

When the two sides met in league action last month it was City who emerged victorious, smashing Chelsea’s 33-match unbeaten WSL run at Kingsmeadow, breaking open the title chase and setting up a tantalising finish to the league campaign.

Asked if Hayes would be seeking revenge, she said: “This is not Star Wars. This is no Death Star-destroying moment. Revenge for me is something I don’t really think about when it comes to football.

“I love being in these games, I know the team loves being in these situations, so I look forward to it.”

Chelsea striker Mia Fishel will be out for a significant period after sustaining an ACL injury while on international duty with the United States.

The 22-year-old is the second Blues player to pick up such an injury this year after striker Sam Kerr was ruled out in January.

Fishel signed from Mexican side Tigres in the summer and has scored once in 10 Women’s Super League appearances this season.

In a statement the club said: “Mia will be assessed by a specialist in the coming days and will then begin her rehabilitation with the club’s medical team at Cobham.

“Everyone at Chelsea would like to wish Mia the very best for her recovery.”

Emma Hayes’ defending WSL champions were beaten 1-0 by Manchester City on Friday and now lead the table only on goals scored.

Chelsea broke the Women’s Super League transfer record even as their men’s team sat out the January window.

While Premier League spending was down across the board to a combined £100m over the month, compared to last year’s record £815m as estimated by finance company Deloitte, an increasingly active WSL market peaked with the Blues’ move for Colombia forward Mayra Ramirez.

An initial 450,000 euros (£384,000), as stated by selling club Levante, is the English top flight’s highest ever fee – with add-ons worth 50,000 euros (£42,600) making it a potential world record in the women’s game.

Ramirez was recruited to cover for Sam Kerr’s expected season-long ACL absence while Manchester City replaced the similarly injured Jill Roord with Aston Villa’s Laura Blindkilde Brown.

With WSL sides increasingly following the lead of the men’s game in turning to the transfer market in response to injuries, Calum Ross, assistant director in Deloitte’s Sports Business Group, told the PA news agency: “Player trading is a key part of any club’s business model, whether that’s in the women’s game or the men’s game.

“Obviously at the moment the values that we’re looking at are a lot more modest in the women’s game but we’d expect to see that growing in line with revenue.

“They’re all positive changes for the women’s game and it’s exciting to see that, and hopefully it does deliver the growth that it really deserves and is capable of.”

After lavish spending in recent windows, Chelsea were one of five men’s Premier League sides not to make a single January addition along with Arsenal, Everton, Liverpool and Manchester United.

The slowdown has been attributed to the threat of sanctions under the league’s profit and sustainability rules, with the Toffees already docked 10 points this season – though spending over the full season still hit £2.4bn, second only to last season’s £2.7bn.

Ross said: “I think compliance with financial regulations is a key part of it.

“We’ve obviously seen the Premier League’s response to breaches of their regulations, which is heightening clubs’ awareness to comply, and it’s the first year of UEFA’s new squad cost rules for clubs participating in UEFA competitions.

“There’s other reasons as well. In the summer we saw transfers like (Jude) Bellingham, (Declan) Rice, (Harry) Kane, which then create that domino effect across the market. We’re probably seeing a moment to pause and reset after they’ve done a lot of that business in the summer.”

Only £30m was spent on deadline day on permanent moves into the Premier League, the majority of that money heading into the Sky Bet Championship as Crystal Palace signed Adam Wharton from Blackburn and Aston Villa brought in Middlesbrough’s Morgan Rogers. Radu Dragusin’s move to Tottenham for a reported £26.7m on January 11 remained the biggest of the month.

For the first time since the Chinese Super League boom of 2019, the Premier League was not the biggest global spender as Ligue 1 clubs in France splashed out 190m euros (£162m) and Brazil’s Serie A over £123m.

The Saudi Pro League was not in that bracket, spending barely £20m after its headline-making summer splurge had echoed that previously seen in China.

Jordan Henderson returned to Europe with Ajax after six months at Al-Ettifaq and other high-profile signings expressed discontent, but Ross said: “I don’t think the bubble’s starting to burst. I think it’s a similar story (to the Premier League) – they’ve invested heavily in the summer and there’s an opportunity in this window to reflect and reset.

“I certainly expect to see them back in the market in the summer, whether that’s to the same levels that we saw this summer is to be seen. It does seem there are strong business plans behind the Saudi Pro League but there obviously is a need for them to prioritise financial sustainability over the long term.”

Chelsea boss Emma Hayes feels her side are fully prepared to kick off their FA Cup title defence without prolific striker Sam Kerr, who scored the winner in last year’s Wembley final.

The Australia captain on Thursday underwent surgery for an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury and is set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines.

The Women’s Super League-leading Blues first have to find their way past West Ham, who have already been active in the transfer window with the signings of Shelina Zadorsky, Katrina Gorry and Kerr’s fiancee Kristie Mewis, while Chelsea have added defender Nathalie Bjorn from Everton.

Hayes, whose trophy cabinet already includes five FA Cups, said: “I know Sam would expect me to say nothing less. Our focus has got to be on the players that are fit and a good challenge for me is to find those solutions.

“I trust in the squad that we have and we’ve added to that as well.”

The competition’s overall prize pot has been doubled to almost £6million this season, with a minimum £54,000 for fourth-round winners while the losing clubs receive £13,000 – up from £15,000 and £3,750 respectively.

West Ham boss Rehanne Skinner said: “The cup is an incentive in itself but the prize money is a huge incentive, because it’s a significant amount of money when you’re talking about players and making additions.

“Increasing the prize money is really important in helping the growth of the game.”

Fifth-tier Luton are the lowest-ranked team remaining and will face WSL competition for the first time when they host Brighton.

Albion head coach Melissa Phillips said: “The FA Cup is such a special event, the history of the tournament, the magic as they say and what a fantastic match-up we have, a tier-five team and a top-tier team. They’ll certainly be up for the game.”

Phillips’ side were beaten in last year’s semi-final by Manchester United, who take on National League Northern Premier Division leaders Newcastle with over 1,000 Magpies fans preparing to make the trip to Leigh Sports Village.

United boss Marc Skinner confessed last year’s 1-0 loss in the final “feels like yesterday” and vowed his side “want to go one better than we did last year”.

Newcastle striker Katie Barker insisted her side are brimming with confidence, saying: “No matter who we play, we always play a game to win and we’ll do everything we can to win the game.”

Arsenal boss Jonas Eidevall vowed to take the competition seriously, beginning against Watford. He said: “There’s no excuse for not being able to field your best teams in these competitions.”

Durham’s meeting with Manchester City, selected for broadcast on the BBC, will mark the first time the Championship side have been televised.

Durham midfielder Lauren Briggs told the club website: “It’s something we all dream of, a great opportunity, and we’ve worked really hard for this.”

Bristol City host Liverpool in an all-WSL match-up while Championship Sheffield United travel to Tottenham and tier-three Derby welcome top-flight Leicester.

Sunderland face Southampton, Blackburn make the trip to Crystal Palace, Plymouth face Nottingham Forest and Ipswich meet Charlton.

Tier-three Burnley play Championship leaders Birmingham, Reading take on Wolves and London City Lionesses play Moneyfields.

Emma Hayes has refused to speculate over the future of injured striker Sam Kerr, whose Chelsea contract expires this summer.

Kerr underwent surgery on Thursday on an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury suffered during what boss Hayes described as an “innocuous” turning and shooting exercise during the Blues’ warm-weather training in Morocco.

The lengthy recovery process all but guarantees the Australia captain will miss the remainder of both the Women’s Super League and Champions League campaigns, the latter Hayes’ last chance to win that elusive trophy before she parts ways with Chelsea to begin her new role as head coach of the United States women’s national team.

Asked about Kerr’s contract and concerns the forward might have played her final game for Chelsea, Hayes said: “With the announcement (of Kerr’s injury) the focus for Sam right now is on rehab.

“I’m sure when the time is right to discuss her future that will come from Sam and the club, but Sam loves Chelsea and Chelsea loves Sam, so I think that’s the most important thing to say on that front.”

England and Chelsea midfielder Fran Kirby, 30, is also out of contract this summer and earlier this week claimed in an interview with the BBC that there had been no conversations with the club about her future.

Kirby – who has experienced a number of setbacks of her own, including the knee issue that ruled her out of last summer’s World Cup and a spell out with pericarditis – expressed hope that she could continue playing top-flight football after her current deal expires.

Hayes said: “I think when it comes to Fran, it’s not unusual for players to go into the last six months of their contract. Fran knows that our goal with her is to keep her on the pitch for 100 per cent of the season, not less than 50 per cent.

“She understands that and sometimes she is a bit impatient. She wants to do everything at once but we know what a talent she is, we know what we can expect from Fran, and I’m sure, again, when the club and the player and all of the people involved with that have something to announce on that front, they will.

“But I don’t think anybody should be too panicked just because of the timelines. We have worked over 11 years to put in place a structure to make sure we’re always planning and preparing, and I think Chelsea and its future are still in a very, very good place.”

Meanwhile, there was good news about Catarina Macario, the 24-year-old USA forward who signed with the Blues in July but has yet to make an appearance for Chelsea as she endured her own prolonged recovery from an ACL injury.

Macario took a “progressive” part in the team’s sessions in Morocco and Hayes added: “I think this first part over the next couple of weeks will be the reintroduction and I think Chelsea fans can expect to see her quite soon.”

Chelsea’s Sam Kerr has sustained an anterior cruciate ligament injury during the club’s warm weather training in Morocco.

The Blues and Australia striker will begin rehabilitation with the club’s medical team and is likely to be out for an extended period.

Kerr’s injury is a big loss to Emma Hayes’ side who are looking to win their fourth successive Women’s Super League title.

The Matildas captain has scored four goals in eight games for the Blues in the WSL this season and she has dominated in the Champions League, scoring five goals in four.

Erin Cuthbert’s second-half brace helped Chelsea take control of Group D in the Champions League with a 3-1 win at Hacken.

The two teams had played out a goalless draw at Stamford Bridge last week, which left the Swedish outfit top after three matches, but Emma Hayes’ side were able to finish 2023 with a crucial victory.

Sam Kerr broke the deadlock with her ninth goal of the campaign and, while Clarissa Larisey scored for Hacken to ensure it was 1-1 at half-time, Cuthbert netted twice in the space of 12 minutes after the break.

It ensured the Women’s Super League champions moved into top spot of the group after four matches and hold a one-point advantage over Hacken while Real Madrid, who they will host on January 24, are no longer able to qualify for the knockout stage following a 1-0 loss to third-placed Paris.

Hayes had warned her players there were no excuses despite this being their fourth match in 10 days but they nearly conceded early on at Bravida Arena.

Only four minutes were on the clock when Anna Anvegard hit the crossbar after Larisey’s cross, but Chelsea regrouped and a Lauren James curled effort signalled their intentions.

While Hacken goalkeeper Jennifer Falk was equal to James’ 20-yard strike, she had no answer to the prolific Kerr minutes later.

Johanna Rytting Kaneryd was the architect of the opener after she outmuscled Elma Junttila-Nelhage on the right before she cut back for Kerr, who fired into the roof of the net from close range in the 14th-minute.

It was a much-needed opener for the WSL champions, but they were caught out with 26 minutes on the clock by a slick counter-attack.

Jusu Bah showed great speed out wide and crossed in from the left where Larisey powered home a header.

Chelsea could have retaken the lead before half-time, but Falk pushed wide a firm strike by Sophie Ingle.

It was a different story after the break with Anvegard firing against the woodwork again for the hosts after linking up with Larisey, which proved a crucial moment in the group fixture.

Minutes later and Hayes’ team were back in front when Rytting Kaneryd’s cross was cleared to Ingle, who showed her composure to pick out Cuthbert and the Scotland international rifled into the bottom corner to make it 2-1 after 52 minutes.

It was Cuthbert’s first goal in this season’s Champions League but she doubled her tally again with 64 minutes played.

Kerr’s smart pass sent Cuthbert away and after she fooled Filippa Curmark with a fake shot, the midfielder’s low effort was too powerful for Falk.

Hacken pushed for a response and substitute Molly Johansson found the net in stoppage-time, but it was ruled out for offside and Chelsea earned a crucial three points.

Emma Hayes praised “80 per cent fit” Sam Kerr after her hat-trick helped Chelsea to a 4-1 Champions League win against Paris FC at Stamford Bridge.

Kerr has been easing back to fitness after missing most of the World Cup with injury and has made a modest start to the Women’s Super League season with only two goals so far.

But against Paris she ensured her side’s European campaign began in earnest following last week’s controversial draw with Real Madrid, though the result had looked in doubt when the visitors levelled through Thea Greboval’s header before half-time.

That cancelled out Kerr’s opener which she had prodded in on the half-hour mark after getting between goalkeeper and defender to turn home Lauren James’s superb right-footed cross.

She added quick-fire goals early in the second period to put down Paris’ resistance, the first a far-post finish from Johanna Rytting Kaneryd’s low ball in before an effort that looped over the head of goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie.

Sophie Ingle evaded her marker to roll the ball into the corner in stoppage time to add gloss to the scoreline.

And afterwards Hayes revealed she had predicted pre-match that Kerr would finally rediscover her scoring touch against the French side.

“I fancied her to score a hat-trick tonight,” said Hayes. “I said it in the dressing room before the game. She doesn’t get credit for all the other little bits she does.

“By her standards she’s not on top, top (fitness) yet, but I don’t know anyone who puts the ball away like she does. She’s so alert and decisive with her movement. Brilliant centre-forward play.

“If that’s her at 80 per cent, I’ll take that. That’s not bad. I can’t wait for the hundred per cent to come.”

Hayes opted to start with Fran Kirby on the bench with the forward also in the early stages of a return from injury having missed most of last season.

She emerged at the start of the second half to play a crucial role in restoring Chelsea’s lead, playing in Rytting Kaneryd down the right who crossed for Kerr to slide in her second.

“I rate Paris,” said Hayes. “I felt there’s a lot of work you have to do over 90 minutes that might have been too much for Fran. It’s so important we keep her healthy for England and Chelsea.

“Fran wants to play in every moment but I thought that was the perfect cameo for her. The team needs it.

“We were sloppy in the first half. I think the games accumulated caught up on us. People don’t realise how hard it is to keep going.”

Paris coach Sandrine Soubeyrand reflected on a brave performance from her team against a side that many fancy for the Champions League crown.

“I think maybe we lacked a bit of efficiency and clinical nature in front of goal,” she said. “I wanted the players to come and give an account of themselves, not so much thinking about the score.

“We wanted to play, not sit back, and I think we did that. We had opportunities. I think we could have done better on one of the goals (conceded), but we go away with no regrets.”

Chelsea eased to a comfortable 4-1 win against Paris FC as Sam Kerr’s hat-trick helped them to a first Champions League victory of the season.

The result had looked in doubt at half-time after the visitors had stunned Emma Hayes’ side with an equaliser from defender Thea Greboval’s header, wiping out the lead given to last year’s semi-finalists when Kerr turned in Lauren James’ cross.

But two goals early in the second period settled Chelsea nerves and ensured there would be no upset from the tournament debutants at Stamford Bridge. Kerr grabbed her second and third in the space of seven minutes before substitute Sophie Ingle capped the night off in stoppage time to ensure three points after last week’s controversial draw away to Real Madrid.

Chelsea started unusually subdued and allowed Paris to have the better of the first 20 minutes, though neither side mustered much in the way of chances.

The first opening fell to James and it came from a mistake by Greboval at the back for Paris. The defender played a casual, aimless pass out from the edge of the box straight to the feet of Erin Cuthbert, whose quick ball forward was dummied by Kerr and allowed to run on to James.

With the goal at her mercy, Chelsea’s hat-trick hero last time out against Liverpool opened up her right foot and skewed horribly wide of the post.

Yet the England winger soon made amends. On the half-hour mark the ball was worked to her wide on the left by Jess Carter, and with a deft step-over to fox her marker she carried it inside and delivered a curling cross that pitched perfectly between goalkeeper and defender for Kerr to lunge in and prod her side in front.

Johanna Rytting Kaneryd spurned a golden chance to double the lead when she nipped in behind and was denied brilliantly at close range by Chiamaka Nnadozie in the visitors’ goal.

Within minutes Chelsea’s advantage was wiped out and the equaliser was simply worked. Gaetane Thiney’s corner was swept over from the right for Paris, and there rising highest above the grounded Cuthbert from 12 yards was Greboval, her header looping into the air and over the head of Carter whose goalline intervention succeeded only in helping the ball into the roof of the net.

Chelsea goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger saved her team in the first minute of the second half, flying out at the feet of Mathilde Bourdieu after she had stepped inside Kadeisha Buchanan to make space to shoot.

It turned out to be the moment on which the game turned. Within two minutes, Chelsea’s lead was restored and it was substitute Fran Kirby who began the move.

Picking up the ball wide on the right, she looked up and fed the charging Rytting Kaneryd bursting forward from midfield. Her low cross into the six-yard box evaded the defender by a millimetre, and there stealing in with a poacher’s finish was Kerr to make it 2-1.

Chelsea were out of sight when Kerr completed her hat-trick, Berger’s long, searching kick requiring only two touches from the Australian before she hoisted the ball high over Nnadozie, who may have misjudged its flight as she sought to paw it out from underneath the crossbar.

From there, Paris competed gamely and might have pulled one back late on had Berger not been alert to flip a high shot over the bar with her fingertips.

But Chelsea’s superiority showed. With victory assured, Ingle slid the ball home unmarked from a corner at the death as their bid to send departing boss Hayes out with a Champions League medal began in earnest.

Rachel Daly and Sam Kerr have both been named among the favourites to win the Golden Boot for the upcoming Women's Super League season.

Aston Villa's Daly is the current holder of the trophy having led the league with 22 goals last campaign, the joint-most recorded in a single season in competition history.

Kerr, meanwhile, has finished as the division's top scorer on two occasions, one of only two players to do so, winning the Golden Boot in back-to-back seasons in the 2020-21 and 2021-22 campaigns with Chelsea.

Ahead of the new season, which gets under way next weekend, a number of Women's Super League players and coaches pointed to Daly and Kerr as the frontrunners to lead the division in scoring.

When asked who will win the Golden Boot, Daly's Villa team-mate Mayumi Pacheco told Stats Perform: "I would love to say Rach Daly, of course.

"I think she had an unbelievable season last year and I think it's going to be tough to replicate, but I know she's got it in her."

Manchester City's Jess Park described Daly as an "unbelievable player" and lauded her "brilliant finishing attributes", while Brighton's Katie Robinson labelled the former West Ham loanee as a "prolific goalscorer".

Daly's manager, Carla Ward, added: "She’s one of a kind, she’s like a kid that just wants to play football. 

"It doesn't matter where you put her on the pitch, she’s happy. She wants to score goals, she’s hungry, she wants success, she wants to be better every day."

Kerr netted 12 goals in 21 outings last season as she helped Chelsea claim a third straight Women's Super League title.

Her Blues team-mate Johanna Rytting Kaneryd is backing her to reclaim the Golden Boot, telling Stats Perform: "For me, it's so easy to play with her. She's unreal in the box.

"Even though it does matter how you cross the ball, it feels like she's always there. She has unbelievable timing and ability to score."

Mary Fowler played with Kerr for Australia as they valiantly battled to the semi-finals of the Women's World Cup on home soil, and is excited to see how her compatriot fares.

"You just can't help but admire some of the things that she does," Fowler said.

"It's just like you wouldn't think of doing that yourself. I'm just excited to see what she does this season."

England boss Sarina Wiegman believes simply nullifying the threat posed by Australia striker Sam Kerr will not be enough to see the Lionesses through to a first-ever World Cup final.

The European champions take on the Matildas in their semi-final tonight at 11 am BST at Sydney’s sold-out Stadium Australia, where the majority of the 75,000 in attendance will be backing the co-hosts.

Captain Kerr is her country’s leading goal-scorer of either gender, but has not yet started a match in the global showpiece after injuring her calf pre-tournament, making her much-anticipated return as a substitute in Australia’s 2-0 last-16 victory over Denmark.

Though the Chelsea forward is, at least in Australia, the poster-woman for this tournament, Wiegman insisted: “Australia is not just Sam Kerr. Yes, we have a plan [if she starts]. She can play and she can start on the bench, so that’s the situation. Of course she is a threat, she’s a very good player, so a lot of respect [to her].

“But there is more than Sam Kerr, because at the end it is always a team performance. When the team does really well an individual can do even better. That’s the same for Australia and it’s the same for England.

“There is a lot of pressure on her because everyone expects things from her. I think Australia have grown in the tournament too, they had some difficult situations they had to come back from and they did really well. We expect a very strong Australia tomorrow.”

The winner of Wednesday night’s contest will take on Spain for the trophy, after they beat Sweden 2-1 on Tuesday to book their trip to the final.

Kerr’s calf was arguably the most talked-about calf in Australian history when it was announced she would miss the first two matches of the Matildas’ World Cup campaign, and speculation has swirled about her fitness ever since.

The 29-year-old declared she would be available for Australia’s final group stage contest against Canada but remained on the bench, before appearing to a raucous reception for the first time in the 80th minute against Denmark.

She featured more in her side’s quarter-final against France, coming on for Emily van Egmond in the 55th minute and scoring one of the penalties that would see Australia win a 7-6 shootout and advance to the final four for the first time.

England captain Millie Bright, Kerr’s club team-mate at Women’s Super League champions Chelsea, echoed her manager’s assessment, adding: “I think everyone knows [Sam] pretty well. On the worldwide stage, I think she’s made a name for herself.

“It’s pretty hard not to know Sam and her abilities, but like Sarina said there’s other players in the team. I think we’re prepared to play against Australia as a team.”

Those other players have stepped up considerably in their skipper’s absence. Mary Fowler and Hayley Raso – who has netted three times this tournament – are emerging alongside Kerr as new household names Down Under.

It remains to be seen if Kerr will make her first World Cup start against England, or if Australia head coach Tony Gustavsson will once again use her as a talismanic threat off the bench – either way, Wiegman insists England have a plan.

Gustavsson perhaps hinted at the latter in his press conference on the eve of their historic encounter, where one side will become a World Cup finalist for the first time,

The Swedish boss said: “We’ll look at all of this trying to start as strong as possible, but finish even stronger. Meaning, what kind of starting line-up do we want to have, what finishing 11 do we want to have?

“What kind of tools and game-changing do we think we need in a game like this? Type of players, whether it’s speed or aerial presence. There will be some tough decisions to be made because a lot of players deserve to start, but a lot of players also deserve to finish the game and win it for us.”

Australia will make a late call on captain Sam Kerr’s fitness for their Women’s World Cup showdown with France.

Chelsea striker Kerr missed the group stage with a calf injury but came off the bench for the final 10 minutes in the round-of-16 victory over Denmark.

Australia boss Tony Gustavsson must now decide whether Kerr is fit to start Saturday’s quarter-final date with Les Bleues at Brisbane Stadium.

“If Sam is fit to play 90 minutes, she is starting,” Gustavsson said at his pre-match press conference.

“That’s not even a question, and the team knows it.

“I definitely would never, ever see Sam as a disturbance to the team. We’re talking about Sam Kerr.

“Whether she is ready to play 90 minutes plus extra time, that’s to be decided tonight.”

Australia have coped well without all-time top scorer Kerr, scoring six goals in their past two matches – following up a 4-0 win over Canada in their final group game with a 2-0 success against Denmark.

It has been an impressive response to the shock 3-2 defeat by Nigeria that threatened their participation in the knockout stages of a home tournament.

“I look at all the preparation we’ve done over the last few weeks but being ready doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy,” said former United States assistant coach Gustavsson.

“I had the privilege to be in five quarter-finals before this one in three Olympics and two World Cups and you get unhealthily addicted to these types of games.

“This is what you love, this is what you want. I am so happy that the players will get this experience and we will embrace every second of it.”

France, ranked fifth in the world and five places above Australia, have scored 12 goals in three games since opening with a goalless draw against Jamaica.

Brazil (2-1) and Panama (6-3) were beaten in the group stage before Morocco were brushed aside 4-0 in the last 16.

Gustavsson said: “They have proved over this tournament that they have extreme attacking threats: central, left and right.

“They attack with numbers and are brave, technical and fast.

“The one thing they have instilled in this tournament is the work ethic when they lose the ball.

“They are extremely aggressive when they lose the ball, so you get very little time when you win it.

“That’s probably the extra they have over us and that’s going to be the number one challenge to sort.

“But what we have proven is that our defensive structure and defensive work rate has been enormous – we have kept five clean sheets in our last six games – and we have also been very composed in front of goal.

“Once we do break that pressure we know how fast we can attack and one moment can decide the game.”

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