More Matildas injury woe as Mary Fowler ruled out of Women’s World Cup clash against Nigeria

<span>Photograph: Jono Searle/AAP</span>” data-src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/″ src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/″></img></p>
<p><figcaption><span>Photograph: Jono Searle/AAP</span></figcaption></p>
<p>The Matildas’ injury woes at the Women’s World Cup have been compounded with striker Mary Fowler and veteran defender Aivi Luik ruled out of the team’s encounter with Nigeria on Thursday.</p>
<p>On Wednesday morning the Matildas revealed that Fowler and Luik had sustained mild concussions in separate incidents at training on Tuesday, which prevent them from playing against Nigeria.</p>
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<p>“Fowler and Luik have both fully recovered and commenced Football Australia’s Graduated Return to Play protocol,” Football Australia said in a statement.</p>
<p>The injury blow comes amid ongoing speculation over the fitness of captain Sam Kerr, who suffered a calf injury in training last week ahead of the team’s opening match of the tournament against Ireland.</p>
<p>The Matildas have said that Kerr will be reassessed ahead of the team’s final group stage match against Canada on Monday. The striker has not yet returned to training with the team.</p>
<p>News of Fowler’s knock first broke on Tuesday evening, after she was unable to participate in a scheduled media commitment with tournament broadcaster Optus Sport.</p>
<p>At the time Football Australia indicated that Fowler was uninjured and had been taken for a “precautionary assessment”.</p>
<p>Without Fowler and Kerr, the team’s attacking options are significantly depleted.</p>
<p>Fellow forward Kyah Simon is also believed to be unavailable, as she undergoes a gradual return from a long-term ACL injury. When coach Tony Gustavsson announced the squad, he indicated that Simon would not be available until later in the tournament.</p>
<p>Without three strikers, the Matildas will be heavily reliant on Arsenal forward Caitlin Foord and attacking contributions from midfield.</p>
<p>The injury blow may force Gustavsson to reshuffle his formation. Attack-minded midfielder Alex Chidiac may be in line for a call-up, while there will be added pressure on the shoulders of the wide players, Hayley Raso and Cortnee Vine, to contribute going forward.</p>
<p>Luik, while not a starter, has been a defensive stalwart for the team and came on as a substitute in the recent friendly against France. At 38, Luik is the most experienced player in the squad.</p>
<p>Australia’s group B counterparts Ireland and Canada play each other on Wednesday evening, ahead of the Matildas’ clash with Nigeria on Thursday night in Brisbane. If the Matildas beat the Super Falcons, they are guaranteed to progress to the round of 16.</p>
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