Copy of 2022-11-30T162559Z_742352260_UP1EIBU19N8JW_RTRMADP_3_SOCCER-WORLDCUP-AUS-DNK-REPORT-1669827753814
Australia celebrate at the end of their match against Denmark which they won 1-0 to reach the last 16 of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. Image Credit: REUTERS

Sixteen years ago in Germany, Harry Kewell scored a late equaliser for Australia against Croatia to send the Socceroos into the last 16 of the World Cup. For long periods of their Group D match against Denmark they were wishing they had a player of the same caliber as the skillful former Liverpool left winger as the class of 2022 toiled.

2006 was the last time Australia made it to the knockout stage of the tournament but thanks to Matthew Leckie, they progressed from the group.

Good work

Australia had control of the ball in the opening stages with Denmark not quite at the races. Riley McGree had the first opportunity of the game after good work by Leckie, but his shot from the edge of the box was blocked as Graham Arnold’s side showed some good early intent.

Denmark, on their longest ever winless World Cup run having failed to win any of their past six games in the competition, hit back through Mathias Jensen. He drew a decent stop from Mat Ryan who got two hands behind the shot and pushed the ball over for a corner.

They were getting closer as Martin Braithwaite had a chance on the edge of the box but instead of shooting he chose to pass to Andreas Skov Olsen who missed the target. The Danes were dominating with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Christian Eriksen taking charge of the midfield as the Aussies sat deep but they couldn’t find that precious goal as the half time whistle blew at Al Janoub Stadium. Kasper Hjulmand’s side had been the better of the two in the first 45 but Australia took a shock lead early in the second period.

They hit Denmark on the counter and it was a wonderful finish from Leckie, who up against a couple of defenders twisted and turned to create a bit of space before slotting in past Kasper Schmeichel.

No time

Now chasing the game, more responsibility fell on talisman Eriksen to go and make something happen but they were second to every ball and were being hemmed in. The the playmaker wasn’t allowed any time on the ball to create a chance but then came the big moment. Kasper Dolberg went down in the box and the ref awarded a penalty. But the Danish fans’ cheers turned to cries of agony as the decision was quickly overruled for offside and upheld by VAR. It appeared to knock the stuffing out of Denmark and galvanize Australia.

The Aussies held on to advance to the last 16 meaning an early exit for the Danes who many expected would be the dark horses in Qatar.