Sam Kerr (Photo: Football Australia/Supplied)

The Matildas are looking ahead to their two Olympic Qualifiers this week against Uzbekistan, but all eyes are on their forward stocks without Sam Kerr, Cortnee Vine and Alex Chidiac.

A feature of The Matildas offence for the past decade, Sam Kerr will not feature in the upcoming Olympic Qualifiers due to the ACL injury that she sustained in a Chelsea Football Club training camp. Kerr is not only a big contributor on the field, but also shoulders the added responsibility and leadership of the captaincy of the team.

After arriving in Dubai for their camp, Matildas stalwart Clare Polkinghorne spoke about the loss of their captain but also the opportunity and belief within the squad.

“Obviously you can’t replace a Sam Kerr, on and off the pitch she’s a leader for our group and a real important part of our team,” Polkinghorne said.

The Matildas have a talent-ladened squad ready for Uzbekistan, which boasts many options in offence. There is returning striker Michelle Heyman, the ever reliable Mary Fowler, as well as Alanna Kennedy, Caitlin Foord and Amy Sayer as options that have been used in the past.

“She’s going to be a big loss for us, but we saw at the World Cup that a number of different options that we can use and we’ve got a few new players coming in as well, well new and old players coming in.

“It’s going to be really exciting to see how they relish the opportunity and fit back into the group and I’m sure there’s a lot of players that can step up and fill that role.”

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Having not played against Uzbekistan since the 2007 Olympic Qualifier (their only meeting), the Matildas are relishing the new challenge that awaits. Polkinghorne looks at it as an opportunity to focus on their football and what they can do to win.

“The coaches will obviously scout their team and give us the important information, but I think it gives us a good opportunity to focus on ourselves and what we need to do in order to be successful in these games,” she explained.

“I think sometimes that is a positive, you can just focus on your processes and how you want to play, play as a group to get the best results, so obviously it’s not a team we know too much about but we’ll watch some video in the coming days and no doubt the coaches will have us very well prepared.”

She opened up on their processes and strategies for game day which include the need for a good start to the game and a possession-based mindset.

“I think that is the key, to start well and start with energy and hopefully we will have a lot of possession of the ball and sometimes those sort of games can be a little bit frustrating but I think we’ve got a few tools now that [we can] use to break down the opposition,” Polkinghorne said.

“A key for us to remain positive, remain calm and I guess stick to our processes and our game plan.”

After the run that the Matildas had during their last year’s World Cup on home soil, they have become one of the big attractions in the sporting sphere in Australia. A long-serving member of the team, Polkinghorne described the impact of the fans on the Matildas.

“It just brings a smile to my face, it’s something that I know this group is really, really proud of and there’s nothing like playing at home and together,” she continued.

“The support of our home fans is something that we really love and we don’t take for granted and we just really appreciate how much support we have gotten.”

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