Sam Kerr
The Matildas must find a way to win without injured captain Sam Kerr when they play Uzbekistan. Image by Richard Wainwright/AAP PHOTOS
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Matildas kick off Kerr-less era against Uzbekistan

Anna Harrington February 24, 2024

The Matildas know Sam Kerr can’t be replaced.

However, six and a half weeks after Kerr ruptured her ACL, they insist they are ready to earn a coveted Olympics berth without their sensational skipper leading the charge.

Australia take on Uzbekistan twice in five days, first in Tashkent on Saturday, then in Melbourne on Wednesday, with the winner of the two-legged play-off securing their spot in Paris.

Matildas players have consistently, and validly, pointed out how well they fared at the World Cup while Kerr was sidelined with a calf injury.

But unlike that campaign, Kerr – and her infectious personality and leadership – won’t be part of the team’s camp at all.

Steph Catley will once again assume the captaincy, while coach Tony Gustavsson tries to replace an irreplaceable star up front.

Young forward/midfielder Amy Sayer backed Australia to figure things out.

Amy Sayer
 Amy Sayer believes the Australians can figure out how to win without their injured skipper Sam Kerr. Image by Richard Wainwright/AAP PHOTOS 

“It’s really unfortunate that we’ve lost Sam,” Sayer said.

“She’s one of the best players on the team and she is our captain, so that’s a big gaping hole that’s been left in her absence.

“But I think that the tactics of the team and the principles that have been laid down from the very beginning of Tony’s tenure have really helped us close that gap a little bit, and then it just comes to who can really fill Sam’s shoes.”

Sayer hopes to be the one to fill those sizeable scoring boots.

Australia have called upon veteran Michelle Heyman for the first time in five years, while the likes of Caitlin Foord, Mary Fowler and Emily van Egmond have also spent time centrally.

But Sayer, 22, has impressed when given opportunities.

“Without Sam on the team, I know that I play a similar position, and in the past I have been the substitute for her, in that No.9 or No.10 attacking midfield role,” she said.

“I’m not trying to fill her shoes exactly, because she is that special player, but I think I have similar qualities – and some different ones as well – that can help provide a benefit to the team.”

The game kicks off at 8pm (AEDT) in Tashkent.

Australia are taking a take a fly-in, fly-out approach to a difficult trip.

They head from their training camp in Dubai to Tashkent on Friday night, then depart for Melbourne on Saturday night, mere hours after the game.

The second game is at Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium on Wednesday night.