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Matildas back "top class" forwards in Kerr's absence at FIFA World Cup

CANBERRA, July 24 (Xinhua) -- Australia have started preparations to face Nigeria in their second FIFA Women's World Cup match with confidence that they can reach the knockout stages without injured captain Sam Kerr.

The Matildas on Sunday returned to training following a 1-0 win over Ireland in their World Cup opener on Thursday.

They will again be without star striker Kerr against Nigeria as the 29-year-old continues to recover from a calf injury suffered on the eve of the tournament.

Despite the absence of their best player and leader, the Matildas are confident they can guarantee qualification for the round of 16 with a win on Thursday night, with Caitlin Foord and Mary Fowler expected to again lead the attack.

"The message is we've just got to adapt and Cait and Mary played a really important role against Ireland," defender Charli Grant told reporters on Sunday.

"We've still got top-class players as our forwards.

"Sam's one of the best players in the world. But that just gives the opportunity to Cait and Mary to shine and they took that on really well against Ireland."

The Matildas struggled to break down a resolute Irish defence without Kerr, registering three shots on target and relying on Steph Catley's 52nd-minute penalty for the breakthrough.

Foord and Fowler will have more time to prepare for the game against Nigeria who typically play a more aggressive high press compared to a low block.

Kerr was not involved in training on Sunday but walked laps without the compression bandage she had previously been seen wearing on her calf.

The 2023 World Cup, hosted jointly by Australia and New Zealand from July 20 to August 20, will see only the top two teams from each of the eight groups progress to the round of 16.

This marks the inaugural instance of the women's football's premier international tournament expanding to a 32-team format.