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Australia's World Cup preparations soured by injuries

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(Reuters) – Australia’s preparations for the women’s World Cup have been hit by a tournament-ending foot injury to central defender Laura Alleway and a hamstring strain to teenage striker Mary Fowler.

Alleway had carried the injury through a training camp in Turkey but had failed to recover in time to be fit for the World Cup opener against Italy on Sunday, the team said.

Uncapped 18-year-old defender Karly Roestbakken, who had been travelling with the Matildas camp, has been promoted into the squad in Alleway’s place.

“This is an unfortunate situation for Laura and as a group we feel for her,” coach Ante Milicic said in a team release.

“We have given her every opportunity to return to full fitness ahead of the tournament, but with our first match now just days away we needed to make a call which has provided Karly a fantastic opportunity.”

Alleway’s injury leaves Australia vulnerable if one of their two starting central defenders, Alanna Kennedy and Clare Polkinghorne, break down.

Roestbakken plays as a full back for Western Sydney Wanderers.

Fowler, a 16-year-old talent set to become Australia’s youngest World Cup player, suffered her hamstring strain during training on Thursday and had to sit out the rest of the session, Australian media reported.

“Apparently it’s just precaution. She felt something on the hamstring. I’m not going to risk a 16-year-old kid,” Milicic told reporters.

Quarter-finalists at the 2015 World Cup in Canada, the Matildas were thrashed 3-0 by the Netherlands in their final warm-up last week.

Australia will also play Brazil and Jamaica in Group C.

(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Nick Mulvenney)

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