The extent of Sam Kerr’s injury drew renewed concerns on Monday after conflicting messages from the Australian women’s national team at the World Cup. Kerr, Australia’s superstar forward, is currently sidelined with a calf injury sustained in training last week.

Asked about Kerr during a press conference with local media, Australian midfielder Kyra Cooney-Cross suggested the 29-year-old suffered a more serious injury than had previously been reported.

“It’s unfortunate that Sam tore her calf before the game,” Cooney-Cross said, according to a local ABC broadcast.

An Australia team spokesperson later clarified to ABC reporter Jessica Stewart that Cooney-Cross’ description of Kerr’s injury was incorrect. An edited video of Cooney-Cross’ press conference published on the Matildas’ website also removed the comment in question.

Kerr was originally ruled out of Australia’s first two World Cup group stage games for what she and Football Australia referred to as a “calf injury.”

“Unfortunately I sustained a calf injury yesterday in training,” she wrote in a statement on Instagram. “I wanted to share this with everyone so there is no distraction from us doing what we came here to achieve. Of course, I would have loved to have been out there tonight but I can’t wait to be apart of this amazing journey which starts now.”

Football Australia said the team’s medical staff would reassess Kerr after the second group stage game against Nigeria on Thursday. Australia won their World Cup opener 1-0 over Ireland on Thursday.

Kerr watched Matildas training on Monday while wearing a compression wrap around her left calf. Australia’s all-time leading international scorer was expected to play a key role for the host country at the 2023 World Cup, and her status for the rest of the tournament remains unclear.

A number of women’s soccer stars will now have their own Legos after the company released a 2023 Women’s World Cup set this month.

The players featured are U.S. women’s national team forward Megan Rapinoe, Australia’s Sam Kerr, Japan’s Yuki Nagasato and Nigeria’s Asisat Oshoala. The set comes as part of Lego’s Play Unstoppable campaign that “aims to challenge stereotypes around play and creative building, and encourage girls to unlock the freedom they need to play without boundaries.”

The Women’s World Cup kicks off on July 20 in Australia and New Zealand, where the USWNT will aim to defend its title from 2019.

“Play, both on and off the pitch, helps children explore who they are, build confidence and feel like part of a team. It’s one of the reasons why women’s football is one of the fastest growing sports globally, with crowd attendance records being shattered regularly and over 30 million girls now playing the game worldwide,” said Kerr. “But despite the talent of female players and the excitement of the game finally being recognized on the global stage, there are still many stereotypes that surround girls, their hobbies and the way they play that we need to break down.

“I hope that seeing women like me achieve their dreams inspires girls to believe they are unstoppable when they get to do the things they love.”

“Anything is possible. I think so much of what girls hear often is in a very tight little box with so many limitations,” Rapinoe said about the project. “I think play is so important. It’s where our creativity comes out. It’s where we learn new things about ourselves and other people.

“It’s where we can really shed barriers and sort of shed the constraints around us.”

Rapinoe said that she’s tried to break those barriers during her own career, which has led her to be unapologetic about who she is.

“My mantra for play is just to be myself and try new things and to use that creativity. I feel like there’s never really any mistakes, it’s just something that you learn from,” she said.

“I think the world would be much better if girls lived without limits. It’s like half the population is being limited and put into a little box. Like, we can only get better if we’re allowed to be our full selves.”

Rapinoe has played in five matches for OL Reign since returning from an ankle injury and is expected to be named to the USWNT’s 23-player roster for the World Cup this month. The 37-year-old forward has previously won two World Cup titles with the U.S. in 2015 and ’19.

Kerr, meanwhile, is set to captain Australia at the World Cup. The 29-year-old recently scored the game-winner in Chelsea’s 1-0 win over Manchester United to claim the FA Cup title.

The U.S. women’s national team remains the favorite to win the 2023 Women’s World Cup, and the field looks as wide open as ever after a wild international window.

While the USWNT looked shaky in its two wins against Ireland, several of its competitors did not fair any better.

England fell 2-0 to World Cup co-host Australia, snapping its 30-match unbeaten streak, while Germany lost to Brazil for the first time since the 2008 Olympics. Sweden tied with long shot Norway, and France bested Olympic gold medal-winner Canada.

After the break, the USWNT leads all odds at +275 to win its third straight World Cup, according to DraftKings Sportsbook.

England follows with +350 odds. That represents a slight change from January, when both England and the USWNT were tied with odds of +300 to win the World Cup trophy. At that time, Spain stood in third with +600 odds, while France and Germany tied for fourth at +700.

Spain and Germany now are tied for third at +650, while France is fourth at +750.

Sweden’s odds have slipped to +1400, while Australia remains at +1400 and is now tied for fifth. The Netherlands (+1600), Canada (+2500) and Brazil (+2500) also remain the same.

The international window represented the last chance to see national teams in action before World Cup rosters are finalized. The USWNT next takes the pitch at 4 p.m. ET Sunday, July 9, in San Jose, California, for a World Cup send-off match against Wales.

Soccer power couple Kristie Mewis and Sam Kerr are pouring “everything” into their preparation for the 2023 World Cup.

While the girlfriends will compete for different sides, Kerr for co-host Australia and Mewis for the U.S. women’s national team, both know the first half of the year will be spent gearing up for that tournament, they told soccer lifestyle magazine Gaffer.

“We’re just raging for the next six months to the World Cup, doing whatever we can,” Kerr said. “We both feel like we’ve been gunning for this World Cup for so long now that it’s kind of going to be like we’re just giving everything for the next six months and then it’s gonna be like a breath of fresh air.”

Mewis agreed, adding, “It’s just crazy that it’s coming so fast but it’s exciting.”

Kerr stars for the Matildas and for Chelsea in the Women’s Super League. The 29-year-old midfielder is tied for the team lead with six goals this season, and the English club sits in second in the league standings.

As Australia gets ready to host the World Cup alongside New Zealand, Kerr will serve as the face of the home team. She became the country’s all-time leader in international goals in 2022, surpassing Tim Cahill’s previous record (49). Her total stands at 61 heading into the World Cup year.

She and Mewis started dating during the COVID-19 pandemic, but they did not go public with their relationship until they made headlines at the Tokyo Olympics in August 2021. The USWNT bested Australia in the bronze medal match, and photos showed Mewis comforting Kerr on the pitch after the final whistle, which prompted them to confirm their relationship on Instagram.

Still, Kerr’s biggest concern about dating a fellow soccer player comes into play when they have to face each other in competition, as they did at the Olympics.

“I think there’s this part of us where we’re both separate athletes and when we compete against each other there’s this worry that people don’t think we don’t take it seriously because you’re playing your girlfriend,” Kerr said. “That’s what I worry about most out of anything, is that our coaches or teammates don’t think that we can separate the two. … I hope people know that when it’s training time or play time, it doesn’t come into it.”

Despite the pressure that comes with the spotlight, Mewis focused on the positive impact their relationship can have. The 31-year-old midfielder, who is ramping up for the 2023 NWSL season with Gotham FC, is “proud” to share their story, she said.

“I think just being out and being two girls in love, I think if we can change one or two people’s lives and the way that they feel about each other and how comfortable they feel, then that means a lot to me,” Mewis said.

The game was all but over, with New Zealand looking to take a 1-0 win over Australia. Then Emily van Egmond and Sam Kerr struck late to lift the Matildas over the Football Ferns in the international friendly.

Australia trailed 1-0 at the end of regulation before van Egmond struck first in the 94th minute. Kerr found the back of the net two minutes later, pouncing on a loose ball from a corner kick to secure the dramatic win.

In doing so, the Matildas avoided their first loss to New Zealand since 1994.

Anna Green gave the Football Ferns the early lead, which seemed like it would be enough. But the Matildas never gave up, dominating possession time (including 71 percent in the first half) and completing more than double the amount of passes. In total, they had 16 shots – with six coming on goal.

“It just shows the belief we have in this team,” van Egmond said. “Football’s a funny game, you can have 90 per cent of the ball and maybe you don’t put it into the back of the net, but if you stay loyal to the game plan like Tony said, and the principles we’ve got in place, eventually it’ll come together.”

It’s not the first time that Kerr has played hero for the Matildas. Australia’s all-time leading goal scorer had a similar game against England in the Olympics, where she scored one in the 106th minute to lift Australia to the Olympic semifinals.

The two teams will meet again in the second game of their friendly series on Tuesday.

Ji So-yun’s long-range banger in the 87th minute in the AFC Women’s Asian Cup quarterfinals on Sunday lifted South Korea to an unexpected victory, bouncing favorites Australia from the tournament.

South Korea’s 1-0 upset secured the team a place in the 2023 FIFA World Cup and delivered the Matildas their worst-ever Asian Cup result.

Australia dominated much of the quarterfinal matchup, holding 65.6 percent of possession and out-shooting South Korea 14-7. The Matildas, however, were unable to covert in the final third, leaving the door open for South Korea in the waning minutes of the Asian Cup contest.

South Korea now advances to the semifinals, where they will face the Philippines, who defeated Chinese Taipei in penalties in their quarterfinal match.

Australia’s stunning loss comes 18 months ahead of the 2023 World Cup, which the country is set to host alongside New Zealand.

The United States women’s national team will leave Australia with a win and a tie after drawing with Australia 1-1 on Tuesday.

Ashley Hatch, three days after scoring the third-fastest goal in USWNT history in a 3-0 win over the Matildas, slotted home a pass from Midge Purce in the fourth minute for her second career goal with the national team.

The U.S. maintained the 1-0 advantage for the next 84 minutes, outshooting Australia 16-8 and tallying seven shots on goal. Australian goalkeeper Lydia Williams made six saves to keep the USWNT from padding their lead.

Australia broke the tie in the 88th minute when Sam Kerr set up Kyah Simon for a shot from outside the 18-yard box. Simon’s shot deflected off of a U.S. defender and past keeper Casey Murphy for the equalizer.

Lindsey Horan had the opportunity to win the game for the USWNT in stoppage time, but an offside call negated her sliding volley goal.

With the draw in front of 20,459 fans in Newcastle, the USWNT finishes the 2021 calendar with an overall record of 17-2-5 in 24 matches.

Caitlin Foord plays for both Arsenal and the Australian national team. In 2011, at age 16, she became the youngest Australian to play in a World Cup. She has since played in three World Cups and the 2016 Olympics. Below, she spoke with Just Women’s Sports about her rise in the W-League, her time in the NWSL, and what comes next for the national team. 

[Editor’s note: this conversation took place shortly before the FA announced that the Women’s Super League season would not be restarted amidst coronavirus concerns.] 

You started playing in the W-League when you were 15 years old. What do you remember of those early years? Were you ever intimidated?

To be honest, at the time it was a big deal because the W-League was new. When I look back at the W-League now, the league has come a long way. It’s still not professional — it’s semi-professional, but it has improved a lot. Back then, we were training out of high school and I wasn’t too intimidated because I had been training with those same girls for a couple of years before through the state program. Getting brought into the state program was definitely intimidating though because that’s the first time you would train with those older girls.

Things were different then — the older girls didn’t make it easy for the young ones to come in. You had to earn your spot. At times that was intimidating, but I don’t think I had a difficult time because I showed them respect and then, when I played, I earned that respect back.

After you signed with Sydney FC, you got your first call up to join the national team. What was that experience like?

When I joined the national team, it was pretty scary. At the same time, though, Sam Kerr, Emily van Egmond and Teigen Allen were all on the team and around the same age. They were some of my really good friends, so it was easier to join the team with them there, too. It was intimidating, but I had my group of friends.

Then, the team went to the Asian Cup qualifiers for the World Cup. I had been going to the training camps leading up to the qualifiers, but I missed out on that squad. The team ended up winning the Asian Cup and I just remember watching that and really wanting to be there as a part of the win. It was the first ever for Australian football, and it was disappointing that I wasn’t there to experience it with them.

Was that disappointment motivating? What happened that led you to being included in the World Cup roster? 

I didn’t really expect to go to the Asian Cup with the team — I wanted to, but I didn’t think I was there yet. But, leading up to the World Cup, I was going to the training camps again, and I remember one specific camp where it was getting close to when the squad was going to be picked. And, I should say, I was pretty oblivious when I was younger — I didn’t really take note of certain things. At this camp, there was one game against a boys team and my role was to follow this one boy around the field for the whole game. So, I just said, “Okay, that’s my role.”

The girls were all saying to me, “You’re going to get picked for the team.” And I was so confused. How did they know? They kept saying, “It’s because we’re going to play Brazil in the first game and someone’s going to have to man Marta, and it’s going to be you.” And I thought there’s no way. But then at the final camp, I got a call from Tom Sermanni, who was the coach at the time. He told me that I was going to the World Cup, which was crazy.

I didn’t grow up with football in my family, so even though I knew it was a big deal, I didn’t know just how big of a deal the World Cup was. My family and friends were really proud of me and excited. But, for me, it was just like, “Cool, I get to go on another tour with the girls.”

There’s a lot of girls that were on that team that are still on the national team. 

Yeah, I think we had the youngest squad or the second youngest squad there. It was me, Sam Kerr, Kyah Simon, Lydia Williams, Emily van Egmond, Tameka Yallop, and Clare Polkinghorne. Sam and Emily and I have been on the journey from the beginning together. They’re two of my best friends. We’ve grown up together and experienced a lot together — the highs and lows, the injuries.

You were named “Best Young Player” at the 2011 World Cup. What was that experience like? 

Well, I did end up starting our first game against Brazil in March —  marking Marta. I went on to start in three of our four games, I think. I had a really good tournament and just happened to win the Best Younger Player award. I was still so oblivious to what was going on. After we got knocked out, I went on holiday with Sam and her family. So, I was in Croatia on holiday when I started getting Facebook Messages saying congratulations for the award. Then people from the Federation called me and told me that they wanted to fly me back to Germany for an award presentation. I just said, “No, it’s okay. I’m actually on holiday at the moment.” Looking back now, I really should have gone. But at the time, it didn’t really phase me. I was like, “Oh, that’s cool, but I’m having a much better time on holiday.”

In 2015, Australia had a good run but still looked like a team on the rise. In 2019, Australia was definitely a force to be reckoned with, but had a disappointing finish. How has the national team changed throughout the years? What’s the state of the team now? 

In the 2011 World Cup, we had a super young team. We were there to compete, but there was never a belief that we were genuinely going to be winners. And then in the 2015 World Cup, we started competing with the big nations. We knew that we had the team to be able to go far, but I think what was missing was the belief within the team that we could be winners. In 2019, we felt like it was our time, which is what is most disappointing. I’m not going to make excuses for us, but I think the timing of our coaching staff being fired four months before the World Cup wasn’t good for us. It was a difficult situation to overcome, and I think we did the best we could in that position.

After we were knocked out of the World Cup in 2019, we just wanted to play another game so we could move on. We wanted to leave the World Cup behind us and focus on the Olympics. Now with our new coach, we take our hats off to what he has done with us in the short amount of time he’s had. He’s taking us through to the Olympics as well. Although they’ve been postponed, we’re excited and feel like we are genuine competitors to medal.

You were only 18 when you moved to the US to play for Sky Blue in 2013. What led to that decision and how was that transition? 

Once I finished school, I didn’t really know what to do, and everyone on the Matildas was going to play overseas. I signed with Sky Blue through Lisa De Vanna, who was there as well. The team was looking for an outside back, and she put my name forward. Sam went to play for Western New York at the same time, so, as daunting as it was, I knew that I had her and Lisa.

It was definitely scary. I hated it my first two weeks. I was in New Jersey and the house I lived in was old and not very nice. I kept thinking, “What am I getting myself into here?” But once I started training with the team and making friends, I loved it.

I had to grow up pretty quick, though. I didn’t even know how to cook when I moved. Luckily, Danesha Adams was one of my roommates and she took me under her wing. She always cooked dinner for me and took care of me. And when it was time for me to leave during the offseason, I was really upset because I loved it so much. I was obviously excited to get home, but I was sad to leave the friendships and the life I was living over there at the time.

Looking back, how would you characterize that time with Sky Blue and that first stint in the NWSL? 

During my first couple of years at Sky Blue, we had a good team, and I loved it. I had the opportunity to play alongside Christie Pearce, who was still on the USWNT. I learned a lot playing next to her. I don’t even know how to describe her —  she was just incredible. There always used to be this joke where she would say, “I’m old enough to be your mom.” I was closer in age with her eldest daughter than I was with her. She took me under as one of her kids and I became really close with her family. She was someone that took care of me. I actually called her my US mom.

After those first couple years, though, I wanted to be traded. As I’m sure you are aware, the organization was not the best at the time. I wanted to get out of there, but they wouldn’t trade me.

This happened in the year leading up to the Olympics, so since they wouldn’t trade me, I decided to stay in Australia and focus on training for the Olympics. If it had been any other year, things probably would have been different. But, that’s where my stubbornness comes in. I knew I didn’t want to go back to play for Sky Blue. I was hoping that if I didn’t come back, they would just trade me and I could play somewhere else. I think they were hoping that if they kept refusing to trade me, I would give up and come back. It didn’t work like that for either of us. The following year, I wanted to be traded again but they continued to refuse.

After two years of requesting a trade, why wouldn’t they trade you? 

Honestly, I don’t know. There are so many rules in the NWSL, it’s crazy. When they wouldn’t trade me the second year, I went and played in Japan for a season. It was a completely different experience, but it was also a small world. The goalkeeper I played with at Sky Blue, Brittany Cameron, also played in Japan at the time and she is who first got me interested. It was a new challenge, but I learned so much from being there. My style of play adapted. They are so technically good in Japan, that I was able to improve a lot playing alongside them.

After playing in Japan, you ended up being traded. How did that come about? 

The following year, I started working with a new agent in America. He finally got me traded out of Sky Blue and got me to Portland. He asked me where I wanted to play and I said anywhere. He said, “No, you have a decision in this. You can choose.” That was shocking to me. I just wanted to get out and now you’re saying I can choose where I play? That was cool. He asked what my first preference was and I said, obviously, Portland. Somehow, he made it happen.

Why do you think it took having an agent to actually get you traded from Sky Blue?

Honestly, I don’t know. It never made sense to me. I was out of the league for two years, yet a team still owned me. It didn’t seem right to me. I guess that’s just how the league runs. You almost don’t have any power as a player.

How was the move to Portland? 

I was so excited about the big move because I had wanted to be in the NWSL for the last two years. Right before the move, I was still playing with Sydney FC and we were going into the semifinals. I was playing well at the time and had scored in the first half of the game. Right before half time, I ruptured a ligament in my foot. I was out for three or four months, which delayed me getting over to Portland. That was super tough for me because it was something I was really looking forward to.

Once I recovered and made it to Portland, I was so excited to be there. I have to give massive credit to Mark Parsons and everyone at Portland because they really helped me get through that injury. Their support made me feel like part of the team even when I couldn’t play — it was incredible. But it’s always difficult coming back from an injury, and I felt like I did well with what they asked of me in the club, but I was disappointed because I felt like I couldn’t give them all that I wanted to even though I was so excited to play.

How did your approach change following that disappointment during your second year with the team?  

That first year, I just didn’t feel like I could give to the club what I wanted to. Once the season ended, I was already excited for the next year. In my second year, we had three or four games before I went to the World Cup, and I was playing well. And then I went off to the World Cup to play for Australia. The league continued and credit to the other girls on the Thorns because they were playing really well. When I came back, it was a bit strange. I didn’t get the opportunity to play and prove myself. The team was winning. Players were playing well. It made sense to not take them out, but for me it felt like I was being punished for going to the World Cup. It’s still sad for me because I left Portland and I don’t feel like I gave as much to the club as I would have liked to.

You signed with Arsenal in January. Obviously, coronavirus has thrown a wrench in things, but how do you feel about the move? 

The biggest thing for me right now is that I feel like I’m in a good place with my football and how I’m feeling since joining Arsenal. I’ve never felt so sure and right about a move like this before. The staff has really gone above and beyond. They’ve driven around and dropped off workout gear. There’s group chats where they send workout programs, and they are able to make it fun.

It was hard to be motivated at first, especially after the Olympics were postponed. I spoke to the staff here at Arsenal and expressed how I was feeling. They 100% supported me and understood where I was coming from. They said, “Don’t feel pressure. We’re not chasing numbers. At this point, everyone’s mental health is more important.” To have that support from the Arsenal staff has been super encouraging. It makes my experience so far at the club even better.

You’re 25 and have played in three World Cups. This will be your second Olympics coming up. You’re playing for arguably the best club team in the world. What’s next for you?

Oh, man. I don’t think I’ll be satisfied at the end of my career if I haven’t won or played in a World Cup Final or won an Olympic medal. I want to do something special with the girls I’ve grown up playing with. I would give all of my individual awards away for any of those team awards. Obviously, Arsenal is known for winning trophies and I’ve yet to win any with the club, so hopefully we can grab some of those. A Champions League trophy would be cool.