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Kerr reflects on stunning year as Matildas eye second crown 


Perth: In an all-conquering 2017, Sam Kerr’s phenomenal scoring streak made her a global star of the women’s game. Now, as revealed in an exclusive interview with the-AFC.com, the AFC Women’s Player of the Year has Jordan 2018 in her sights.

When Australia lined up to meet continental rivals Japan at the US-based Tournament of Nations last July, Sam Kerr took the field with a career tally of eight international goals since making her debut in 2009.

Kerr would go on to score a hat-trick that afternoon, marking the beginning of a record-breaking run in which she amassed 12 goals in her next seven international matches, in addition to dominant domestic performances in both the US and Australia.

With the AFC Women’s Asian Cup in her focus, Kerr spoke to the-AFC.com about her amazing rise, scoring in the final as teenager in 2010 and being drawn against mighty Japan in Group B.

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Sam, 2017 was a remarkable year for you at both club and international level. What do you think drove your amazing run of form and how have you been able to sustain it for so long?

2017 was unbelievable. I think I reached a point in my career where I knew I just needed to give more. I was at the Algarve Cup and I had a meeting with my coach, ‘Staj’ (Alen Stajcic) about playing well but not scoring. After that I played the whole Algarve Cup and didn’t score one goal. I was bitterly disappointed and knew I had to do something.

I have worked really hard this year at my finishing and I still think I have a lot to do but I am happy to have added a few more goals this year. I have faced a lot of hard times already in my career and just didn’t want to end my career with any ‘what ifs’. I have literally played every game with a smile on my face and played like it could be my last game. I am a very competitive person, and hate losing.

I am so, so lucky that I play on an amazing national team with many great players that every time I play with them I am amazed and learn so much. Being happy off the field is very important for me and makes me play well, so this past year I’ve put a bit more time into what makes me happy off the field.

The Matildas have ticked off a number of milestones in the last three years - A World Cup quarter final, a return to the Olympics, a first win against the United States and more. Is it a case of confidence breeding confidence? Does each milestone give the team more belief?

I think the Matildas have been getting better and better each year. I think we still have a lot more to give and hopefully win. I think the more time we spend together the better. ‘Staj’ has done a great job of making sure we have many games a year and a lot of camps. The extra time together helps a lot and most of the girls are overseas playing now which is great.

The team already has a huge amount of belief in one another but of course winning reinforces what we really are capable of. I think this team I am a part of right now is the best it has ever been, and the ball is in our court. We will achieve whatever we put our mind to if we can continue to work hard and make sacrifices!

Let’s go back to 2010 for a moment. Australia won the AFC Women’s Asian Cup for the first time and you scored, as a 16 year-old, in the final. What are your memories of that time period and what did it mean to you to play a role in that achievement?

Still to this day, that night is one of my greatest footballing memories. I was very young and didn’t understand the magnitude of what I was a part of. My memories are all good from that tournament. Australia had a dream run and created history. I guess I was kind of spoilt because being my first major tournament I thought winning tournaments and creating history must happen all the time. Now, eight years later, I know this is not the case but it drives me to feel that emotion and success again.

Four years ago it was Japan who beat Australia in the final, and this time you’ll meet them in group stage. What was your reaction when you discovered you had been drawn against the defending champions?

I was excited! I love playing Japan and that is what football is all about, playing the best teams and players in the world. We got the better of them last time we played, so hopefully same again in Jordan!

Do you consider Japan your biggest challengers, not only in Group B, but to win the tournament altogether?

Japan is a world class team. We have had some very competitive games against them in the past few years. They can never be underestimated and we respect them very much. All the teams will be a big challenge in such a high-pressure tournament.

You are one of many players in the Australian team to have played a large amount of club football in either the US or Europe. Does this experience give you an advantage on the competition?

I think any type of experience helps. I definitely feel better knowing I have played week in week out against the best competition in the world. A lot of girls in my national team are the same and I think this gives our team a good advantage.

 

*Australia are considered by many as the favourites to win the AFC Women’s Asian Cup. Is the expectation on you and your teammates a positive or negative in terms of how you approach the competition? *

I don't think it will affect the team very much and we have yet to talk about it. We are just focusing on ourselves and our performances. I am very confident that if we play to our best ability we will come away champions, but football is a funny game. All we can do is focus on our own game and what we can control.

Photos: FIFA.com, AFP

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