Australia 1-0 Denmark
Mathew Leckie the hero as Australia reach last 16 for second time in their history
"The football, this simply sucked," said head coach Kasper Hjulmand of the most limp World Cup exit imaginable from a tournament top 10side. With a performance befitting the faded logos on their Qatar protest jerseys, Denmark staged the most puzzling of disappearing acts.
Perennial overachievers no more. This against-the-odds nation, the Euro 92 winners who also somehow marched to a semi-final last year despite the near-death of their star player, now have a new tag to get used to: bottlers.
Instead, it was Australia that would emerge as the team so much greater than the sum of their parts at this tournament. They achieved what their manager described as "the greatest set of results" in their history via such old school methods: a basic 4-4-2 system in which an ultra-physical group of youth and journeymen fight for their lives.
Old fashioned to the point that Graham Arnold, the gravel-voiced 59-year-old Sydneysider, was in grumpy dad mode afterwards, almost urging his players to throw away their phones. "Then they go on social media until 4-5am and get pats on the back," the manager explained as he urged his boys to instead get some rest. “I have been in the game long enough to know that the most important thing is recovery - sleep. Making sure you do everything to get ready for the next game."
This was the first Australia side to reach the knockout stage of the World Cup in 16 years. They did so in some style, winger Mathew Leckie dodging left, then right, before finishing a brilliant counter attack, shooting low shot past Kasper Schmeichel. “We are glad to put smiles on people’s faces," Arnold added. "It’s the first time an Australia team has won two games in a row at a World Cup. Maybe this is the new Golden Generation. We hear about the Golden Generation of 2006."
The Danes, needing victory to progress, dominated possession but there was no fightback after they had been caught out on the break in the second half. Instead there was a surreal surrender, with Christian Eriksen an all-but-anonymous figure.
The Danes fly home from Qatar on Thursday having registered only one point and just a single goal. Hjulmand took responsibility. “I believe that my feelings are too big now to think clearly,” he said, casting doubt over his future. “There are many ingredients in that pot. For me it’s important to get a bit of distance to it so I can think rationally. I can’t do that right now, the emotions are too big, the frustrations are too big. We did not reach our level."
Australia began the day in second spot in Group D behind reigning champions France and ultimately finished there following a frantic few minutes of second-half drama.
The Socceroos and the Danes were both briefly heading out of the tournament after Wahbi Khazri fired Tunisia in front against Les Bleus. News of that development had barely had time to filter through to the Al Janoub Stadium before Melbourne City forward Leckie ran almost half the length of the pitch to finish in style.
Arnold, in contrast, found himself urging Premier League clubs to sign star defender Harry Souttar as he said this current crop were a match for the likes of Mark Viduka, Harry Kewell and Tim Cahill. “I’m just so proud and happy, this is what World Cups are for,” he added. "When the Cricket World Cup is on, you don’t see Federation Square (in Melbourne) like it is and pubs like they are, or if it’s rugby union, rugby league or anything."
Souttar, who has only just recovered from a long-term knee injury, was immense at the back as Australia limited the nation ranked 10th in the world to few opportunities. “There will be some hangovers and some joy with the Australian fans,” continued Arnold. “It’s remarkable. Harry has been out for a year with an ACL, he’s played three games before he came in.
“There’s so much belief in that boy. I know his mentality is so strong. And I tell you what, if I was a Premier League club, I’d be banging on the door real quick, he’s that good.”
Arnold did not know until after the game that Tunisia had triumphed 1-0, a result which meant Australia had to win to progress. Match-winner Leckie, who also “had no idea” about Khazri’s strike, is now targeting a quarter-final spot – uncharted territory for the Socceroos – ahead of a second-round clash with Argentina.
“We’re all super stoked, everyone was buzzing (at full-time), screaming a lot of nonsense, so much emotion,” he said. “But we want to dream big and the key when we came to this tournament we always said we want to get out of the group and now we’ve done that.
“But then Arnie (Arnold), the first thing he said was, ‘let’s go one more’. With my celebration you saw the emotion. The whole bench was there and I think I got slapped in the head about a hundred times. What is absolutely certain is it is my responsibility that when you come to the World Cup you will reach your best level and we didn’t do that.”
Read the live updates from the game as it happened below
A niche stat
A public holiday?
Should Australians get a public holiday for reaching the knockout stage? Whoever runs the Socceroos Twitter account certainly thinks so.
First time Scottish-born players have made the knockout stage?
If you are well-versed in the history of Scottish football (like myself, sadly) you will know that the Scottish national team has never made it past the group stage at the World Cup.
So, Harry Souttar and Jason Cummings, who were raised in Aberdeenshire and Edinburgh, respectively, could be the first Scottish-born players to have made it to the second round.
I can't think of anyone else who might have done it, but maybe there is some obscure player who already beat them to the record.
Arnold: Players won't be using social media after the game
Australia manager Graham Arnold said after the game: [There'll be] no celebrations. As I said to the boys, that's why we won after a great win against Tunisia. No celebrations, no emotion, sleep and no social media."
Australia manager Arnold: 'I could see in their eyes that the players were ready tonight
Australia manager Graham Arnold said after the game: "[I'm] just so proud of the effort by the boys. Short turnaround but their effort was incredible.
"[It took] a lot of belief, a lot of hard work. These boys come in with a great mindset. We've been working on this for four and a half years. We have the belief, the energy and the focus.
"I could see in their eyes that they were ready tonight."
Leckie: 'We always knew we could do it'
Goalscorer Mathew Leckie said after the game: "I'm proud, exhausted, everything I think. It's hard to describe the emotions right now.
"We always knew we could do it. We believed as a group. We had our doubters but with our spirit, our belief, our work ethic and how close we are as a group, it shows on the pitch.
"That last 15-20 minutes we battled until the end and it didn't matter what they threw at us, we weren't conceding.
"We'll make the most of it tonight but then it's all about recovery because we've got another game coming up."
A great performance
Australia were strong tonight. They were resilient and showed that they were also willing to take the game to Denmark.
The Europeans may have been better in the first half an hour, but Australia matched them for the last hour and deserved their victory.
It was a really good goal from Mathew Leckie and Harry Souttar was fantastic at the bvack.
AUSTRALIA ARE THROUGH
The Australians managed to hold on for a 1-0 win to put them into the knockout stage.
Disappointing for Denmark after a very good Euro 2020. They finish bottom of the group without any wins.
90+6 mins: Australia 1 Denmark 0
Mat Ryan had to make a save at his near post and it was cleared by Mooy.
There was then some confusion between the keeper and a defender over who was going to clear, which ended up with a conrner.
Cornelius had a free header at the corner but put it over the bar.
90+3 mins: Australia 1 Denmark 0
Denmark have had all of the ball for the last few minutes but Australia are clearing everything. Souttar has won every ball that comes near the box.
90 mins: Australia 1 Denmark 0
Six minutes of added time. Can Denmark score two to go through?
89 mins: Australia 1 Denmark 0
Dolberg was played through but Harry Souttar was there to stop him with a great sliding challenge.
The Aberdeen-born defender has been blocking and tackling everything tonight.
Again I am gutted that he doesn't play for Scotland.
Also a sub for Australia: Goalscorer Leckie is off for Hrustic.
Not long to go
87 mins: Australia 1 Denmark 0
A great defensive header from Harry Souttar after a long ball from Joachim Andersen set Keanu Baccus breaking against the Denmark defence.
The midfielder had a strike but it was blocked easily.
84 mins: Australia 1 Denmark 0
Denmark haven't been able to get a break. Australia have been solid at the back and haven't let them in behind. They've also been ravenous when it comes to the second balls.
Australia do look a bit tired though, so perhaps Denmark could exploit this in the last few minutes. They do have plenty of attacking talent.
82 mins: Australia 1 Denmark 0
Sub for Australia: Jamie Maclaren on for Mitchell Duke.
I forgot to note earlier that Bailey Wright came on for Riley McGree.
78 mins: Australia 1 Denmark 0
Since conceding, Denmark haven't really worked Mat Ryan. With not long left, they will have to get creating some chances.
If they can get Eriksen on the ball, they may have a chance. He's always a threat, but Australia have kept him quiet so far.
75 mins: Australia 1 Denmark 0
By Tom Morgan at Al Janoub Stadium
Australia been decent value for their lead generally. They're not brilliantly supported here, but there is a solid corner of yellow at the Al Janoub that is going wild.
Playing in a very basic 4-4-2 and with few standout stars, they are physical, full of running, and much better than the sum of their parts.
Impressive to see them overachieving against Denmark, who have upset the odds a few times themselves over the decades.
This time, however, the Danes are on course to become the first Fifa top 10 team to be dumped out of the competition.
73 mins: Australia 1 Denmark 0
Cornelius looked like he had a good chance as the ball was swung and and he had a free header. He put it high and wide but it was pulled back for a foul on Kye Rowles.
71 mins: Australia 1 Denmark 0
Australia saved by the offside flag! Dolberg went down after a pull from Souttar and the referee pointed to the spot, but the linesman had raised his flag.
A real let off for Australia.
70 mins: Australia 1 Denmark 0
Denmark now need to go some to get out of this group. Despite dominating the early stages they have found themselves behind. They certainly have good enough players to change things but they're not showing it yet.
Subs for Denmark: Cornelius and Skov on for Maehle and Skov Olsen.
Pictured: Leckie's goal
As it stands
Tunisia are beating France 1-0 in the other game, but Australia are still second in the group after taking the lead.
Mathew Leckie slots home!!!
The striker is played through and has just Maehle between himself and the goalkeeper. He sends the defender one way and then the other, before putting it in the bottom corner with his left foot.
Australia 1 Denmark 0
58 mins: Australia 0 Denmark 0
Subs for Denmark: Damsgaard and Dolberg on for Braithwaite and Jensen
56 mins: Australia 0 Denmark 0
Harry Souttar has been pretty solid so far. He's a big presence and loves a challenge.
His brother John plays for Scotland. Imagine the two of them at centre-back together, an absolute unit.
53 mins: Australia 0 Denmark 0
Nearly a chance for Denmark. Jensen with a really nice pass to Skov Olsen who has a bit of space inside the box. He strikes and it smacks Kye Rowles in the chest with some force. Looked like a sore one and it may have been going in.
50 mins: Australia 0 Denmark 0
Australia have started the half on the front foot and are putting pressure on Denmark. If they managed to get a goal it would make things very difficult for last year's Euros semi-finalists.
Denmark have been struggling to get the ball in the first five minutes of the half.
47 mins: Australia 0 Denmark 0
The ball bounces about at an Australia corner and comes to Behich on the edge of the box. His shot is deflected wide for another corner.
The second half starts
Subs: Bah on for Kristensen for Denmark and Baccus on for Goodwin for Australia.
Baccus, who plays for Scottish Premiership side St Mirren, became the first Buddies player to play at World Cup when he came off the bench against France.
As a St Mirren fan, am I allowed to want Baccus to score the winner?
Pictures: The first half
Denmark were the better team for the first half an hour, but Australia fought their way back into it and have nearly had a couple of chances towards the end of the half.
As it stands, Australia are going through.
44 mins: Australia 0 Denmark 0
Shot for Australia. Mooy played a good crossfield ball to Goodwin, who flicked it to Duke. The forward was then bearing down on the defence and hit a low strike from distance, but it was easily dealt with by Schmeichel in the Denmark goal.
Australia are definitely looking stronger. Mooy's composure has been significant. He seems to be the only Australia player who doesn't rush and waits for things to open up. They may have some joy if they can get the ball to him in space.
41 mins: Australia 0 Denmark 0
Australia are putting a bit more pressure on the ball in the last few minutes, meaning that Denmark are getting less joy.
They have grown into the game, as they were the weaker of the two sides in the first half an hour.
They had another opportunity on the break but it was a poor cross from Leckie. If you're not clinical in the World Cup it can come back to bite you.
36 mins: Australia 0 Denmark 0
Denmark are still having plenty of the ball and Maehle is looking threatening, but they are yet to properly threaten Mat Ryan's goal.
Australia will take heart from this and they have nearly had a few chances on the break. The most recent was a good aerial through ball for Mathew Leckie but his touch was poor and he lost the ball.
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29 mins: Australia 0 Denmark 0
Eriksen with a lovely weighted ball for Lindstrom, who got past the defender and tried to pull it back. It eventually came to the outside of the box but the shot was dragged wide.
Australia are struggling at right-back, where they have played a different player in each match so far.
25 mins: Australia 0 Denmark 0
Chance for Denmark! Skov Olsen works a good one-two with Jensen which puts him through inside the box. But he fluffed the shot with his right foot. It had looked like a dangerous move as Denmark had plenty of players and space in the final third.
Australia need to put more pressure on the ball, as Denmark are getting plenty of time to pass and move.
23 mins: Australia 0 Denmark 0
Australia win a couple of headers up the park and it falls nicely for Riley McGree. He hits a decent volley from outside the box with his left foot, but it never really troubled Schmeichel.
21 mins: Australia 0 Denmark 0
Nearly for Denmark. Maehle received the ball on the left and drove at his opposing full-back. He pulled the ball across and it deflected off Harry Souttar, which forced Ryan to get it away. If a striker had been in there there would have been a good chance.
Australia are giving Maehle too much space, and we saw how dangerous he can be at the Euros last year.
18 mins: Australia 0 Denmark 0
Eriksen crosses in a free-kick from wide left which finds Andreas Chistensen at the back post. The Barcelona defender heads low and wide, but it was flagged offside.
15 mins: Australia 0 Denmark 0
More pressure from Denmark. Maehle has the ball out on the left and finds Braithwaite outside the box. The former Barcelona striker should hit it, but plays it to his right and the shot is wide from Skov Olsen.
13 mins: Australia 0 Denmark 0
Chance for Denmark! A long ball from Andersen is flicked on to Jensen from Braithwaite. The Brentford player finds himself through on the right hand side and fires a shot at Ryan who palms it over the bar.
Denmark create nothing from the corner but they have had the better of it so far and are dominating possession.
Australia have occasionally looked dangerous on the break.
8 mins: Australia 0 Denmark 0
Denmark have tried to make things happen so far but it hasn't really worked yet. Maehle made a great overlapping run and Lindstrom played the ball along the line to him. Maehle's cross nearly reached the forward but was gathered well by Mat Ryan.
4 mins: Australia 0 Denmark 0
Riley McGree had a shot from distance with his left foot after space opened up for him in the final third, but it bounced off his own player.
Australia left-back Aziz Behich was then given a booking for pulling his opponent back. A long time to play with a booking.
And we're off!
Denmark kick off to start this crunch match. Can Australia knock out their opponents and seal their place in the last 16?
Denmark fan with OneLove band
The Australians have belted out theirs and the Danes are now singing theirs in a much more subdued fashion.
Which players could knock Denmark out?
Celtic's Aaron Mooy is the highest profile player in the squad and he may be ordered to mark Christian Eriksen today.
Stoke City's Harry Souttar was imperious against Tunisia at centre-half, and should be key again. At six foot six inches, he was great in the air and Scotland will be rueing the fact that they never managed to tie him down.
Mitchell Duke and Craig Goodwin may also be ones to watch in attack, having already broken their World Cup duck.
Fans get ready for the game
Pictures: The warm-up
Scottish connection continues to play big part for Socceroos
Australia remains every Scot's favourite team at the tournament as three Scottish-based players start for the Socceroos today.
Hearts' Kye Rowles and Dundee United's Aziz Behich start in defence, while Celtic's Aaron Mooy is in the middle of the park. Scottish-born defender Harry Souttar and former Kilmarnock and Ross County midfielder Jackson Irvine are also in the XI.
To round off the Scotland connection, Hearts' Nathaniel Atkinson and Cameron Devlin are on the bench alongside St Mirren's Keanu Baccus and Edinburgh-born Jason Cummings.
There are other faces familiar to a British audience, with ex-Brighton and Arsenal goalie Mat Ryan and Middlesbrough midfielder Riley McGree in the starting line-up.
Kjaer on bench again
Denmark captain Simon Kjaer is on the bench again today, after coming off against Tunisia and missing the France game. The centre-back has been struggling with injuries this year, but he has been named among the subs so we may see him at some point.
There are plenty of familiar faces for Denmark, with Crystal Palace's Joachim Andersen, Tottenham's Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Manchester United's Christian Eriksen all starting. Ex-Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen and former Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmiechel are also in the XI.
The teams are out!
Australia: Ryan, Degenek, Souttar, Rowles, Behich, Leckie, Irvine, Mooy, Goodwin, Duke, McGree.
Subs: Atkinson, Karacic, Tilio, Wright, Maclaren, Hrustic, Mabil, Redmayne, Devlin, Vukovic, Deng, Kuol, King, Cummings, Baccus.
Denmark: Schmeichel, Kristensen, Andersen, Andreas Christensen, Maehle, Hojbjerg, Jensen, Skov Olsen, Eriksen, Lindstrom, Braithwaite.
Subs: Nelsson, Kjaer, Dolberg, Damsgaard, Norgaard, Oliver Christensen, Stryger Larsen, Wass, Wind, Poulsen, Cornelius, Ronnow, Skov, Bah.
Euros semi-finalists must win to have chance of going through
Last year's Euros semi-finalists Denmark will go out today if they do not win against Australia.
Australia are in the driving seat, with a win guaranteeing their place in the last 16. If they draw, they will go through unless Tunisia cause an upset and beat France. Denmark will go through with a win, unless Tunisia beat France, in which case it'll be down to goal difference.
Australia have had quite a good tournament so far. They started fantastically with a goal from Adelaide United forward Craig Goodwin giving them a lead nine minutes into their opener against France. They battled well for the rest of the game, but were overpowered by the star studded World champions, who replied twice in each half to win 4-1.
They did what was necessary in the second game, with a crucial 1-0 win over Tunisia. Mitchell Duke, who plies his trade in Japan, scored the only goal of the game.
But they will face a stern test in this match, as they go up against a Denmark side who steam-rolled to the Euros semi-finals last year.
Expectations had been high for Denmark following their strong performance last summer, but they have been rather disappointing so far. They played out a pretty drab 0-0 draw against Tunisia in the first game – a match they would have certainly hoped to win.
They did okay against France, managing to pull things level in the second half through Barcelona's Andreas Christensen, but a great performance from Kylian Mbappe proved too much for them.
These results have left Denmark with plenty to do in their final game, but if they can pull out a performance similar to those we saw last year, then they should be able to see off a fairly solid Australia side.