Matildas name Paris Olympics team without injured Sam Kerr

The Matildas have named an 18-strong team for the Paris Olympics, including eight players heading to their third straight Games.

Australia’s women’s team will travel to France without all-time leading goalscorer Sam Kerr, who scored six times in Tokyo after one goal in Rio in 2016, as she was officially ruled out with a torn ACL.

The Matildas missed the previous two Games, in London and Beijing, making Paris their first Olympic squad since Athens 2004 without Kerr involved.

Captain Steph Catley, vice-captains Emily van Egmond and Ellie Carpenter, plus Mackenzie Arnold, Caitlin Foord, Alanna Kennedy, Clare Polkinghorne and Tameka Yallop will all take part in their third Olympic campaign, starting next month.

Clare Hunt, Kaitlyn Torpey, Clare Wheeler and Cortnee Vine, who scored the match-winning penalty in the team’s famous World Cup quarterfinal shoutout win over France, will make their Olympic debuts, while veteran Katrina Gorry has recovered from her ankle injury in time to join the squad for her second Games.

Retiring goalkeeper Lydia Williams is among four reserves — alongside Charli Grant, Courtney Nevin and Sharn Freier — as possible injury replacements.

Striker Michelle Heyman will travel to her second Olympic Games after playing Rio 2016 before retiring temporarily and returning to the side when coach Tony Gustavsson sent the 35-year-old an SOS after Kerr’s injury.

Australian chef de mission and cycling great Anna Meares said the team was “already full of trailblazers and record breakers”.

“This has been an incredibly challenging squad to select with so many quality players competing fiercely for limited spots,” Gustavsson said.

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“It has been a methodical process over the past couple of years to reach to this point, and each of the players selected bring unique and beneficial qualities to our team that will be vital for our Paris 2024 campaign.

“I would like to congratulate all the players selected and the teammates, coaches, family and friends that have brought them to this moment.

“I know that this team will give everything for the coat of arms and will represent Australia to the best of their ability in the true Aussie way.”

The Matildas will be hoping to end a run of heartbreaking Olympic results when the Games kick off in July and August.

Their last outing in Tokyo ended with a 4-3 loss in the bronze-medal match against the United States, following a similarly tight 1-0 defeat to eventual silver medallists Sweden in Australia’s first-ever semifinal.

The Rio 2016 campaign ended one round earlier, with the Matildas going down 7-6 in a penalty shootout against hosts Brazil in the quarterfinals.

The Matildas will be Australia’s sole Olympic football representatives after the Olyroos went goalless in their men’s Under-23 Asian Cup campaign, which served as an Olympic qualifying tournament.

Why isn’t Sam Kerr playing?

Sam Kerr had surgery on her injured knee in January.(Instagram: @samanthakerr20)

Kerr tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her knee during a training camp with Women’s Super League team Chelsea in January.

She had surgery immediately after, but the months-long recovery process did not leave her with enough time to make the squad for the Paris Games.

Twenty-two-year-old Amy Sayer is also sidelined with a torn ACL.

When is the next Matildas game?

We have not had any word on potential warm-up matches, but the Matildas will play Germany at Stade de Marseille in their opening match of the Games, which will kick-off at 3am (AEST) on July 26.

The Matildas’ other Group B games will be against African qualifiers Zambia (3am, July 29) and four-time Olympic champions the United States (3am, August 1), with the Americans hunting a first gold medal since the 2012 Games in London.

Because of the number of teams and time required between matches, the football program is one of few sports that starts before the opening ceremony at the Olympics.

What are the Matildas currently ranked?

The Matildas are currently ranked 12th in the world, out of a total 193 teams.

But they’ll have tough company when they play their Group B matches at the Olympics.

USA is fourth on the ladder, tailed by Germany. 

Did the men’s team qualify for the Olympics?

No. 

The Matildas will be Australia’s sole Olympic football representatives after the Olyroos went goalless in their men’s Under-23 Asian Cup campaign, which served as an Olympic qualifying tournament.

The senior men’s team are now focused on qualifying for the World Cup in 2026. 

You can catch their next game at 8:45pm on June 6 when they face Bangladesh for the second round of the Asian qualifying tournament.

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