Australia could join co-hosts New Zealand in suffering an early exit from this year’s Women’s World Cup, when they face Canada in their final Group B match in Melbourne on Monday morning.
Hopes were high that the Matildas could enjoy a deep run at their home tournament, but they stand on the brink of suffering an ignominious group-stage exit following their surprise defeat to Nigeria last time out.
Only a win against Canada will see Tony Gustavsson’s side secure a place in the knockout stages, while a draw will leave them relying on a favour from the Republic of Ireland in their game with Nigeria – defeat will guarantee the co-hosts’ elimination.
Canada have taken four points from their opening two games and a draw would be enough to secure the Olympic gold medallists a safe passage through and they certainly have a good recent record against Australia.
Canada head coach Bev Priestman is not expected to make too many changes for Monday’s crunch game at the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium, although the world’s all-time leading international goalscorer, Christine Sinclair, could earn a recall to the starting XI.
As for Australia, the big news is the return of captain Sam Kerr, who has declared herself fit after missing the opening two games of the tournament due to a calf injury, although it is not yet clear whether she will be thrust straight back in from the start.
Aivi Luik and Mary Fowler are also expected to be available after they both missed the defeat to Nigeria due to concussion.
Canada to win – 21/10
Canada have been solid if unspectacular in their opening two games, following up a goalless draw with Nigeria with a come-from-behind 2-1 success over Republic of Ireland last time out.
That has put the Canucks in a strong position and they will take further confidence from their impressive recent record against Australia, as they are unbeaten in the last four encounters, winning the previous three.
The most recent of those successes was a 2-1 friendly win in Sydney last September and they will fancy their chances of repeating that trick against an Australia side with all the pressure on their shoulders.
With co-hosts New Zealand having already been eliminated, the Aussies face increased pressure to reach the knockout stages and, even with the return of star player Kerr, that weight of expectation could prove too much.
Adriana Leon to score anytime – 3/1
Manchester United forward Adriana Leon averages almost a goal every three games on the international stage after grabbing her 29th in Canada colours against Republic of Ireland last time out.
The 30-year-old has scored 29 goals in 98 appearances for the Canucks in total and she seems to particularly enjoy coming up against Australia.
She netted both of Canada’s goals in last September’s 2-1 friendly success and she also struck the only goal when the two teams met three days prior to that match in Sydney.
With Australia likely to need to go for the win, that could leave spaces in behind for Leon and co to exploit and it would be no surprise to see the former West Ham ace grab her second goal of the tournament.