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Matildas star Fowler ruled out of World Cup clash with Nigeria

CANBERRA, July 26 (Xinhua) -- Australia's national team has been dealt another major injury blow on the eve of their second FIFA Women's World Cup match, with rising star Mary Fowler ruled out.

Football Australia (FA) on Wednesday announced that 20-year-old forward Fowler and veteran defender Aivi Luik will miss Thursday night's Group B match against Nigeria after sustaining separate concussions at training on Tuesday.

"Fowler and Luik have both fully recovered and commenced FA's graduated return to play protocol," a statement said.

Fowler had been widely expected to reprise her starting role up front for Australia in the absence of captain Sam Kerr, who is continuing to recover from a calf injury suffered days before the start of the tournament.

It means Caitlin Foord could be the Matildas' only available striker for the second group stage match.

Due to the injury list, head coach Tony Gustavsson will likely have to change the formation from the 4-4-2 he deployed in a 1-0 victory over Ireland in the opening match, with midfielders Alex Chidiac and Emily van Egmond the likely replacements for Fowler.

Australia struggled to break Ireland down without Kerr, relying on defender and stand-in captain Steph Catley to convert a 52nd-minute penalty to secure their crucial win.

A victory over Nigeria in Brisbane would guarantee the Matildas a place in the round of 16 at their home World Cup.

It is not clear if either Fowler or Luik - respectively the youngest and oldest players in Australia's World Cup squad - will be available for the final group stage match against Canada in Melbourne on July 31.

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