England defender Niamh Charles has reached a new level of respect for Chelsea team-mate Sam Kerr since she landed in the Australian captain’s home country for the World Cup.
The Lionesses could face co-hosts Australia in the last 16 if they finish second in Group D following their clash with China on Tuesday, after the Matildas advanced as Group B’s top side with a thumping 4-0 victory over Canada on Monday.
Kerr, who sat out Australia’s first two matches with a calf injury, declared she would be available for the must-win victory but did not feature against the Olympic champions, instead watching on as her team-mates kept the dream alive for the striker’s comeback to come during the knockouts.
Charles said: “She means a lot to us back home but it’s so nice to come here. We were so excited for her in the build-up to the tournament that she’s in England all the time, she goes home for a fraction of time.
“I was really excited leading up for her to get an opportunity to be here and everyone to come to her for once rather than her having to go – so yeah it’s really nice to see, especially in general for the Matildas.
“Obviously it was gutting for her (getting injured) but yeah, I think being here and watching her being so excited in playing in front of her home country is really special.”
The Lionesses, who have now been in Australia for nearly a month, travelled from New South Wales to South Australia on Monday ahead of Tuesday’s encounter with China in Adelaide, where England need just a point to clinch top spot in Group D and set up a meeting with Nigeria in Brisbane.
For the team, the pursuit of greatness never ends, both on and off the pitch. The time is now.
We are fearlessly staring down the #FIFAWWC, and won’t rest:
— CommBank Matildas (@TheMatildas) June 27, 2023
Charles grew up on the Wirral, about 227 miles and just over a four-hour drive from the Blues’ HQ at Stamford Bridge, while Kerr’s hometown of Fremantle, Western Australia, is a nearly 9000-mile journey that takes up the best part of an entire day.
When England embark on their inaugural UEFA Nations League campaign after the World Cup, the maximum time change will be one hour when they travel to Group A1 opponents Belgium and the Netherlands, with Scotland rounding out the group.
And while the Lionesses have benefitted from hosting the four-nation Arnold Clark Cup in the February/March international break for the last two years, Kerr hopped on another plane Down Under for the Cup of Nations before returning to club duty with Chelsea earlier this year.
If all that travel and personal sacrifice ever fazes the four-time Ballon d’Or nominee and FIFA 23 cover star, Charles certainly has not noticed.
“She does it all the time – she just gets on with it,” Charles said. “I had admiration for her anyway as she’s a machine, but some of the Swedes did it at one point in the season and they were like ‘I don’t know how she does it all the time’.
“For sure, you do not hear a moan out of her at all. She just gets on with it and the level of consistency she maintains despite that is very impressive.”