Superstar striker Sam Kerr was hailed as a national treasure and the greatest of all time Wednesday after becoming the first Australian to score a hat-trick at a World Cup.
The 25-year-old banged in four goals as Australia smashed Jamaica 4-1 on Tuesday to reach the last 16.
Kerr — the all-time leading scorer in the US National Women’s Soccer League — had remarkably not found the net in her previous two World Cup appearance in 2011 and 2015.
But she opened her account against Italy in the opening game and is now the tournament’s joint top scorer with five alongside the USA’s Alex Morgan after a striking performance that left Jamaica coach Hue Menzies in awe.
“I told her after the match that it’s good to sit back and watch her play — I’d pay to watch her,” he said.
Her performance brought high praise back home from Australian footballers, commentators and fans.
“It was the best individual performance of her Matildas career, and probably the greatest one-off show by any Australian player,” said veteran football writer Michael Lynch in The Age newspaper.
“There are hardly enough superlatives to describe Australia’s taliswoman,” public broadcaster SBS added.
“Massive result. Congratulations Matildas and Sam Kerr with 4 goals,” tweeted retired Australian Socceroos legend Tim Cahill, whom Kerr has cited as her goal-scoring inspiration.
Fans took to Twitter to hail Kerr as a “national treasure” and “the GOAT (greatest of all time)”.
“If Sam Kerr isn’t your favourite Australian right now, you need to reevaluate yourself,” another fan wrote on social media.
Only two players in the women’s game have scored more goals in a single World Cup match — Morgan and fellow American Michelle Akers who both bagged five.
Kerr’s feats came after she told critics to “suck on that one” last week when the Matildas came from two goals down to stun Brazil 3-2.
There had been question marks about the strength of the Matildas’ World Cup campaign — which was rocked by the sudden sacking of coach Alen Stajcic in January — after being shocked 2-1 by outsiders Italy to start the tournament.
Australia will face Norway in the last 16 in Nice on Saturday.
© Agence France-Presse