FIFA Women's World Cup
World Cup NOW: Should Sam Kerr start Australia's quarterfinal match?
FIFA Women's World Cup

World Cup NOW: Should Sam Kerr start Australia's quarterfinal match?

Published Aug. 7, 2023 11:09 a.m. ET

Sam Kerr made her first appearance in the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup on Monday in Australia's 2-0 victory over Denmark in the round of 16. 

The 29-year-old star missed the entire group stage after sustaining a calf injury ahead of Australia's opening match against Ireland on July 20. But with the Matildas holding a late lead over Denmark thanks to goals from Caitlin Foord and Hayley Raso, Kerr entered the game in the 79th minute to a roaring applause from the home crowd.

Sam Kerr checks in for the first time in the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup

Sam Kerr checked in for the first time for Australia in the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup.

Kerr wasted little time getting into the action. In the 87th minute, she ran past several Denmark defenders and attempted a shot on goal, which soared over the net. The crowd let out a collective "oooh" in reaction to Kerr's attempt on goal.


So, now that Kerr appears to be back and healthy, how does that impact Australia's plans going forward?

The "World Cup NOW" crew – Jimmy Conrad, Heather O'Reilly, Freya Coombe, Leslie Osborne and Karina LeBlanc – discussed the team's chemistry, Kerr's return and whether she should start in the quarterfinal match.

Osborne: "I wouldn't start her in the next game. I would build her minutes. I don't know how fit she is – none of us know – how long she can go. I don't think you start her because she could only put in maybe a 20 to 30-minute shift, but why I'm saying that is, I think this Australian side has found a way to success and play well without her. Of course, she's one of the best strikers in the world, and of course, she should be on this field, and she will make Australia better – but, I think they have something good going. She's a leader. You want that on the field, but things are going well, and sometimes you just don't mess with that. Everyone is playing to their potential right now, and collectively they are a strong unit."

O'Reilly: "Sam Kerr is, like to me, she's not a super-sub kind of player. I don't know why I just have that gut feeling. She came into that game a little bit rusty. Granted she hasn't played in a number of weeks. But, I think that she's somebody that can really benefit from being there from the beginning of the game, growing into the game together. She's such a little fireball. She's such a high intensity, high-octane player that I don't see her being like super calm and composed being a super sub. I'd like to see her just start the game and get into the rhythm of the World Cup together from the start of the game. I mean, that being said, like maybe she can only go for 45, but I have confidence that she can bang in one or two, and put them in a good place to go forward."

Coombe: "I think she's [Kerr] such a key player for them. It lifts the team. It boosts the team. I also think it sends a message to the next opponent … Sam Kerr is fit to play. She's ready, and now you've got to make a plan of how to play against her." 

LeBlanc: "You're just seeing them connected on something bigger than themselves … I think what you've seen is people are buying into this, and they're falling in love with these players. Now that Sam Kerr hasn't been in, they've fallen in love with the rest of the team and everybody is getting the love. It wasn't necessarily the biggest names, but you're seeing a team come together that is inspiring a country and that's what the World Cup is about … This is a rugby country, but now this country's a football country. This is a women's football country. They sold more jerseys than on the men's side, and they found a way to just get the country to fall in love with them and the Sam Kerr story line bought into that because everyone got more curious … they don't have the big names like some of the other teams, but they definitely have that connection, and that will and that want to do it for their country and inspire the next generation of people."

Conrad: "It seems like there's some belief and growth … when you don't have your star player, other players are going to emerge and take on more responsibility. Now when you bring Sam Kerr back into that type of confidence, that's the precipice of something really special." 

Coombe: "They had to, right from the get go, not rely on Sam Kerr to get themselves out of trouble in games. So they've had to establish that collective identity. They've defended as a team. They're growing in confidence. They didn't look troubled tonight. They looked very comfortable and that's a great sign. They're on a good side of the bracket. I think they can continue to go farther until they meet England."

FOLLOW Follow your favorites to personalize your FOX Sports experience
FIFA Women's World Cup

Get more from FIFA Women's World Cup Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more