Aussie coach Alen Stajcic hailed the contribution of Kyah Simon who came back from a career-threatening injury to revive Australia’s Women’s World Cup campaign in a 2-0 win over Nigeria.
The 23-year-old Sydney FC striker, recalled to Stajcic’s side, found the net after 29 and 68 minutes at Winnipeg Stadium to give the Matildas their first win of the competition after their 3-1 opening loss to the United States.
“I’ve known Kyah since she was 14 or 15. She had a broken leg and she was out for nine months,” said Stajcic.
“To see a kid with that resilience and that toughness I knew she was a world class player back then.
“Just to come back from that. She could barely jog and run when she came back and this is her third major injury now and just the resilience and toughness to come back,” he continued.
“We’ve really taken it easy with her over the last three or four months just to build her up slowly because we knew we wanted her to be at her peak for the World Cup and the best part is I think she’s got more in the tank.
“I think she was good today, I think she can be even better. If she can stay healthy and fit she can be a threat for anyone in this World Cup.
“I think she’s potentially a world class player.”
Simon had been a year on the sidelines with a knee injury which required reconstruction and had put her World Cup hopes in doubt.
She had to surrender a position in the prestigious National Women’s Soccer League in the United States in 2014 due to her injury.
And she admitted her two-goal haul was a highlight of her career, as it puts Australia on track for a place in the knockout rounds.
“I always love scoring for my country, to get two in one game and it’s definitely a highlight of my career,” said Simon, who is of Australian-Aboriginal descent.
“I’m speechless. It’s one thing to lose the first game but it takes a lot of character and a lot of hard work to get back and win that second game.
“All credit to the girls, we fought to the end and a well-deserved three points.”
Simon’s first goal came after a superb solo run by skipper Lisa De Vanna which left two Nigerian defenders in her wake before a brilliant pass to the striker.
“I knew she would give them a lot of trouble,” Simon said of De Vanna.
“When she’s on the ball and she’s running at the backline you always know she’s going to come up with something,
“I just thought to dart in behind and get on the end of it. She did all the hard work and I just got on the end of it.”
The United States lead the group ahead of Australia with three points, giving the Matildas a huge chance to make the quarter-finals, providing they can get a good result in their final group game against Sweden next Tuesday. – Agence France-Presse