The 18-year-old Matildas starlet Mary Fowler was only a late starting line-up for Australia in the decisive duel with the two-time reigning world champions USA.

But it took the rising star less than 20 minutes to get just inches from goal in the biggest game of her career when she pounded a powerful header against the crossbar.

Fowler wasn’t named to the starting gun until minutes before kick-off when Arsenal attacker Caitlin Foord stopped with a niggle in warm-up.

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The U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) is the dominant team in women’s football, winning 44 games in a row before being stunned by Sweden in the opening game of the group stage. The powerhouse has also won three of the last four Olympic gold medals.

However, Sam Kerr’s side may qualify for the last eight with a draw or even a loss, depending on other results on Tuesday night.

Seven minutes later, superstar US attacker Alex Morgan raced towards the Australian penalty area with a brilliant counterattack, overtaking Australian Tameka Yallop before firing her shot directly into the chest of Matildas keeper Teagan Micah.

In the 18th minute, full-back Ellie Carpenter launched a long throw in the direction of the penalty area. Alanna Kennedy headed the ball toward the back post and Fowler headed it toward the goal – only to be parried by the crossbar.

It was a strategy that has been used repeatedly to use Australia’s size and attacking weapons in the penalty area – most notably captain Sam Kerr, who scored three headed goals in Australia’s first two games.

But just a handful of minutes later, the Matildas – so badly unlucky with Fowler’s missed attempt – had their own stroke of luck when Tameka Yallop escaped severe penalty for a terrible duel. Yallop pounced on Samantha Mewis in a tackle that could well have earned a yellow card – or red – but escaped without the intervention of the referee.

‘F *** YES!’ Aussies beat gold AGAIN | 00:58

TEAM NEWS

Alanna Kennedy and Chloe Logarzo were brought into the Matildas’ starting XI, with Aivi Luik falling to the bench and Hayley Raso (injured) leaving the squad.

Kennedy then returned to the defense as a partner of Clare Polkinghorne, coach Tony Gustavsson returned to four defenders in defense.

Then veteran striker Caitlin Foord was injured in the warm-ups, which resulted in teenage striker Mary Fowler making her first appearance in that campaign.

AS IT IS

Australia are currently third in Group G, tied with the USA, after a first win over New Zealand and a 4-2 loss to Sweden.

A win would result in the Aussies finishing in the top two of the group, likely second behind Sweden, and booking a date with the Group F winner – most likely the Netherlands or Brazil.

A draw or loss could see the Aussies come through as one of the top third-placed teams. In that case, they would face the Group E winner – either Great Britain or Canada, whoever wins their game tonight at 9 p.m. EST.

The only scenario where Australia fails to make the knockout round is a loss to the US, China to the Netherlands and Zambia to Brazil, with the latter two being played from 9:30 p.m. EST tonight.

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