By Sedara Oluwadara
Graham Arnold became just the second Australia manager in history to lead the Australia out of a FIFA World Cup group stage, with Mathew Leckie’s second-half strike securing a famous 1-0 victory over a crestfallen Denmark, Reelradio.com.ng reports.
As is sometimes the case in high-stakes encounters, a turgid first half unfolded with neither side willing to commit too many men forward and expose themselves at the back.
Chances came at a premium, but it was Denmark who were closest to finding an opener, with Mathias Jensen’s driven strike tipped over the crossbar by Mathew Ryan.
Tunisia’s second-half opener against France in the group’s other match put Arnold’s side on the brink of elimination. With his side in need of a moment of magic, Leckie duly obliged. A mazy run, which started on the halfway line, bamboozled the stretched Danish defense, with Kasper Schmeichel standing helpless as the ball trickled into the far corner following the Hertha Berlin winger’s left-footed shot.
Having never previously kept a clean sheet against European opposition – this being their 12th such encounter – Australia’s defense naturally dropped deeper and deeper as the full-time whistle approached. As had been the case in the two matches prior, Denmark never looked like causing a threat and Kasper Hjulmand’s side – who entered the tournament as potential dark horses – are now leaving Qatar having barely made it out of the starting block.
The Euro 2020 semi-finalists finished the match with a measly three shots on target, indicating their distinct lack of quality in front of goal.
Despite Denmark’s underwhelming showing, the importance of Australia’s achievement cannot be understated, with Australia heading into the FIFA World Cup knockouts for the first time since 2006.
From the Al Janoub Stadium to Melbourne’s Federation Square, this result will inspire a generation of Australian football supporters who once again have a team they can believe in.