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Matildas fire up for Women’s World Cup opening

Sam Kerr has urged the Matildas to embrace the noise and hype when they open their Women’s World Cup campaign in front of their biggest-ever home crowd tonight.

Australia captain Sam Kerr. Photo: AAP/Dean Lewins

Australia captain Sam Kerr. Photo: AAP/Dean Lewins

A sold-out Stadium Australia will be packed to its FIFA capacity of 75,784 for Thursday night’s clash with World Cup debutants Ireland.

The Matildas considered last Friday’s friendly win over France, in front of the current record home crowd of 50,629, the perfect dress rehearsal.

“I’m really excited. I love playing in front of packed stadiums,” Kerr said.

“But I think as a team it’s going to go up and down. We have to just live in the moment.

“We spoke about it briefly today – it’s okay to feel nervous or okay to kind of get overawed by the crowd because that’s life, that’s football.

“We can talk about it but it’s about being in the moment and supporting one another and 50,000 the other day was amazing and I thought that we dealt with it really well.

“Everyone’s more looking forward to it than nervous about the crowd.

“Everyone knows that they’re on our side so it’s nice when you know they’re going to be cheering you on rather than booing you.”

Coach Tony Gustavsson was prepared to settle nerves if required but expected his players to handle the atmosphere.

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“The dress rehearsal against France with 50,000 in the stands was massive for us for our mental preparation,” he said.

Ireland, bolstered by Denise O’Sullivan recovering from a shin injury, are expected to sit back and make Australia break them down.

“We need to make sure that we’re on top of our game,” Kerr said.

“Obviously every team we face brings new challenges, but it’s about us tomorrow. If we play our game, we play our way, we just adapt to what comes at us.

“We have a lot of respect for Ireland. They’ve had some good results lately so we have to be really respectful of that but at the same time it’s about us tomorrow.”

Gustavsson suggested Ireland were vulnerable as halves went on.

“If we look at the games Ireland have played as of late against top teams, there’s no coincidence that they’ve been really, really strong at the beginning of both the first and second half,” he said.

“But it’s also no coincidence that they have conceded goals late in the halves, especially when it comes to some of the tactics on one or two players and one or two behaviours that we identified that we hope we can strike against tomorrow.

“I’m not going to say what, but there’s a clear trend there that we’ll target.”

Go here for more Women’s World Cup coverage.

– AAP

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