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Matildas waltz into World Cup knockouts

Soccer

Sam Kerr has become the first Australian to score a World Cup hat-trick, firing four goals in a 4-1 rout of Jamaica to send the Matildas into the knockout rounds.

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Australia’s reward is a round-of-16 clash with Norway in four days’ time in Nice, the Matildas now free to lift their eyes towards a deep run in France.

Ante Milicic’s side flirted with a third-placed finish in the group as Brazil’s 1-0 defeat of Italy temporarily put them on a collision course with the tournament favourites and hosts.

Kerr’s magnificent haul ensured Australia would not be denied a second-placed finish, besting the Brazilians on goals scored, and sending the Matildas to the Allianz Riviera on Sunday morning (AEST).

On a balmy night in Grenoble, and in front of FIFA president Gianni Infantino in the stands, the Matildas looked set for an easy night after taking a 2-0 lead into the break.

The Reggae Girlz, inspired by leading light Khadija Shaw, had other ideas and ran the show for 20 minutes, scoring through Havana Solaun.

Kerr calmed Australian nerves with a 69th-minute tap-in and completed her tally with the Jamaican challenged quelled.

It is just Kerr’s second hat-trick in a Matildas shirt, and her most important.

She started her party with a looping header past Nicole McClure in the 11th minute, from livewire winger Emily Gielnik.

Emily van Egmond hit the bar as Australia rained crosses in Kerr’s direction, all part of a plan to unsettle the Jamaican defence.

Katrina Gorry, one of three changes to the Matildas side from their comeback triumph over Brazil, dinked a neat ball for Kerr to head her second three minutes from half-time.

But the suggestion that Australia might use their athleticism to run over the top of the world No.53s was quickly dispelled, when Khadija Shaw won a contest with Emily van Egmond to release Soluan.

The 24-year-old rounded Lydia Williams and slotted home for a piece of history; Jamaica’s first goal at a Women’s World Cup.

Jamaica lifted their game and for 15 minutes, Shaw was uncontainable as they sought an equaliser.

It took Hayley Raso, just minutes after her introduction, to dance into the box and lay a cutback to Kerr’s feet to re-establish the two-goal buffer and Australia’s confidence.

The goal settled the Matildas, but not the crowd as word got out of Brazil’s go-ahead penalty in Valenciennes.

As the scores stood, the Matildas faced the almighty challenge of the world No.2s.

That is, until McClure mis-controlled a backpass to allow Kerr her fourth, and a more manageable clash with Norway.

Aside from Kerr’s four-goal haul, there were other individual achievements to savour at the Stade des Alpes.

Lisa De Vanna played game 150, Karly Roestbakken made her first Matildas start and Aivi Luik, a late substitute, played in her first World Cup match.

-AAP

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