Co-hosts Australia brought captain Sam Kerr into the fray for the first time in the tournament as they defeated Denmark 2-0 to advance to the Women’s World Cup quarterfinals at Stadium Australia on Monday. Australian forward Caitlin Foord and Winger Hayley Raso scored either side of halftime before Kerr, who had been out with a calf injury, came on as a 78th-minute substitute to a standing ovation from the 75,784-strong crowd. Australia, which has reached the last eight in three previous World Cups but has never advanced further, will face either France or Morocco in Brisbane on Saturday for a place in the semifinals.
Denmark dominated the early exchanges, with Pernille Harder appearing especially dangerous, but faded as the game progressed, with their first World Cup campaign since 2007 ending in the round of 16. In the first 20 minutes, the Danes appeared significantly superior, with their press hampering Australia’s attempts to establish any fluidity and Harder roaming up front seeking for spaces in the home defense.
When the Matildas made inroads into the Danish half, their forwards were boxed out, and it was their midfielders pushing forward from deeper positions who looked the most dangerous. In the 29th minute, Fowler grabbed the ball in such a situation and delivered a fantastic pass that cut through the Danish defense and found Foord racing down the left channel.
The 28-year-old Foord’s touch carried the ball to the six-yard box, where she slotted it between the legs of Denmark custodian Lene Christensen for her first goal of the tournament. After the break, the pace of Foord down the left wing caused issues for Denmark, and Emily van Egmond nearly turned her drilled cross across the goal into the net in the 65th minute.
Van Egmond received a Fowler feed into the box with her back to goal, and the midfielder handled the ball well before sliding it out to Raso, who smashed it into the net from an angle. A great cheer erupted four minutes later when Kerr was shown on the big screen putting on a match shirt. Kerr’s first touch was a reckless cross-field pass to no one, but she was soon rushing into the area with the ball at her feet, shooting over the crossbar.
Meanwhile, in another encounter, England eliminated Nigeria in a round-of-16 penalty shootout on Monday, with Chloe Kelly scoring the decisive spot kick following a 0-0 stalemate over 120 nerve-wracking minutes. Fourth-ranked England face either Colombia or Jamaica in the quarterfinals on Saturday.