Talismanic captain Sam Kerr returned from injury on Monday as co-host Australia stormed into the FIFA Women’s World Cup quarterfinals with a 2-0 victory over Denmark.
Kerr earned a deafening ovation from the 75,784 fans in Sydney when she entered in the 80th minute after goals from Caitlin Foord and Hayley Raso had put the Matildas in the box seat.
The 29-year-old Kerr, the poster girl of the tournament, had a late chance but fired high and wide. Moments later she lost her footing and grimaced on landing, but showed no ill-effects after that, reports Xinhua.
Australia will face France or Morocco in the quarterfinals.
Kerr’s availability was a major focus heading into the game as she worked her way back from a calf injury sustained before the tournament.
In front of their rowdy fans, the Matildas started nervously with Denmark dictating the early exchanges.
Denmark star striker Pernille Harder was the standout player in the opening 20 minutes, continually threatening to open the scoring.
But Australia weathered the onslaught and settled into the contest as their nerves eased. The Matildas were rewarded in the 29th minute when Mary Fowler on the counterattack produced a perfect through ball to Foord, who calmly fired between the legs of goalkeeper Lene Christensen.
Denmark appeared to be wilting after half-time amid a febrile atmosphere, and Australia capitalised in the 70th minute when Raso scored in the bottom corner. But the biggest ovation was left for Kerr, whose long-awaited return capped a momentous performance from Australia.