Matildas captain Sam Kerr has signed off from club duty with a two-goal haul and a declaration of intent for next month’s World Cup.
Kerr scored a double and made a goal-line clearance despite taking a boot to the head in Chicago Red Stars’ 3-1 win over reigning NWSL champions North Carolina on Monday morning (AEST).
After the match, her last before heading into a pre-tournament camp with the Matildas, she told reporters “see you after the World Cup”, before adding, “with the trophy”.
Kerr will be Ante Milicic’s first pick when the World Cup squad is announced on Tuesday.
The spine of the team from the past four years will remain unchanged.
Lydia Williams is the irrefutable number one, with Steph Catley, Alanna Kennedy, Clare Polkinghorne and Ellie Carpenter the first-choice defence.
Emily van Egmond, Elise Kellond-Knight are the midfield fulcrums.
In attack, Australia is blessed with strong options; Caitlin Foord, Hayley Raso, Emily Gielnik, Lisa De Vanna among them.
After that, predicting the squad gets a lot tougher.
Spain-based pair Alex Chidiac, Aivi Luik are likely additions in midfield, along with Tameka Yallop (nee Butt).
Chloe Logarzo, Kyah Simon and Katrina Gorry have been Matildas mainstays but have struggled with injury in recent months.
If fully fit, they’re nailed-on selections.
Milicic’s decision to extend his squad to 25 players – picking a firm 23 but taking two extras for a pre-tournament camp in Turkey – may have been influenced by their injury clouds.
Simon, who has scored at the last two World Cups, has just one substitute appearance in 2019 at club level and didn’t play for club side Houston Dash on the weekend.
If Milicic is to pick the 27-year-old, he would be doing so on reputation and not his stated criteria of form and fitness.
In her place, a gap could emerge for one of Australia’s teenage forwards, Mary Fowler or Princess Ibini, to make the squad or the train-on positions.
The Matildas will gather in Antalya, the site of the Socceroos’ pre-World Cup camp last year, on the weekend to begin their preparations for France.
They play European champions the Netherlands on June 1 before kicking off their Cup campaign against Italy on June 9.
BOUND FOR FRANCE: 16 LOCKED-IN MATILDAS
Goalkeepers: Lydia Williams, Mackenzie Arnold; Defenders; Teigen Allen, Laura Alleway, Ellie Carpenter, Steph Catley, Alanna Kennedy, Clare Polkinghorne; Midfielders: Elise Kellond-Knight, Emily Van Egmond, Tameka Yallop; Attackers: Sam Kerr, Lisa De Vanna, Caitlin Foord, Emily Gielnik, Hayley Raso.
IN THE FRAME: FIGHTING FOR SEVEN SPOTS
Goalkeepers: Eliza Campbell, Teagan Micah; Defenders: Gema Simon, Elizabeth Ralston, Karly Roestbakken; Midfielders: Kyra Cooney-Cross, Alex Chidiac, Katrina Gorry, Amy Harrison, Aivi Luik, Teresa Polias, Amy Sayer; Attackers: Mary Fowler, Princess Ibini, Chloe Logarzo, Kyah Simon.