Australia’s Mary Fowler and Aivi Luik out vs. Nigeria after separate concussions in practice

The dominant narrative around Australia during group play of the 2023 Women’s World Cup was already who wasn’t playing for the team. Unfortunately, that narrative just deepened.

The tournament co-host will face Nigeria in its second match on Thursday without forward Mary Fowler and defender Aivi Luik after the two sustained mild concussions in separate incidents during practice on Tuesday, the Matildas announced.

Fowler and Luik have reportedly both “fully recovered” and begun the team’s graduated return to play protocol, but it won’t be quick enough to face Nigeria.

Australia was already without captain and all-time leading scorer Sam Kerr, who will miss at least one more match due to a pre-tournament calf injury. There had actually been some confusion courtesy of midfielder Kyra Cooney-Cross that Kerr might have torn her calf, which would all but end her tournament before it began, but Australia later clarified that wasn’t the case.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 20: Mary Fowler of Australia looks on during the Women's World Cup football match between the Australia Matildas and Ireland at Stadium Australia on July 20, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Damian Briggs/Speed Media/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Mary Fowler started in place of Sam Kerr against Ireland to open the 2023 Women’s World Cup. (Photo by Damian Briggs/Speed Media/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

With Kerr out, Australia started Fowler, who plays for Manchester City, at striker in their 1-0 tournament opener against Ireland. The lone goal came on a penalty kick from Steph Catley, who was wearing the captain’s armband in place of Kerr, but the Matildas only generated two shots on target in the whole match. They will now have to find a third option up front, but only for the Nigeria match if the federation’s outlook is to be believed.

Nigeria played Canada to a scoreless draw in its own opener.