Report as Australia seal runners-up spot in Group D to qualify for World Cup last 16 for only the second time; Euro 2020 semi-finalists Denmark eliminated after finishing bottom of group with just a single point; Australia will now face Argentina in last 16 on Saturday (kick-off 7pm)
Thursday 1 December 2022 07:59, UK
Australia dumped Denmark out of the World Cup after Mathew Leckie's strike earned a 1-0 victory and qualification to the last 16 for the first time since 2006.
Australia knew a draw would see them join Group D winners France in the knockout stages, providing Tunisia did not beat France, while Denmark had to win to have any chance of progressing.
Denmark dominated the first period but their inability to score left Australia on course to qualify until Tunisia took the lead against the world champions through Wahbi Khazri.
That goal moved Tunisia into the runners-up spot in Group D momentarily until Leckie weaved into the Denmark area and finished past Kasper Schmeichel (60) as Australia moved back into second, and a resolute defensive display ensured it was not surrendered.
Australia will now face Argentina on Saturday (kick-off 7pm), who finished top of Group C after a 2-0 victory against Poland.
Australia: Ryan (7), Degenek (6), Souttar (8), Rowles (6), Behich (7), Irvine (6), Mooy (6), Leckie (8), McGree (6), Goodwin (6), Duke (6).
Subs: Wright (5), Baccus (6), Hrustic (n/a), Maclaren (n/a).
Denmark: Schmeichel (5), Kristensen (5), Andersen (5), Christensen (5), Maehle (5), Hojbjerg (6), Jensen (6), Eriksen (6), Skov Olsen (6), Lindstrom (6), Braithwaite (4).
Subs: Bah (6), Damsgaard (5), Dolberg (5), Cornelius (5), Skov (5).
Player of the match: Mathew Leckie
With the Socceroos starting the day in second spot courtesy of their win over Tunisia, the onus to attack was on Denmark. The Danes were initially positive and dominated possession against a team 28 places below them in the FIFA world rankings, only to be frustrated in a forgettable opening period.
Australia goalkeeper Mathew Ryan tipped over from Mathias Jensen and unconventionally turned away a dangerous cross from marauding left-back Joakim Maehle, while Christian Eriksen dragged an effort wide.
While Australia remained compact, Middlesbrough's Riley McGree tested Schmeichel during a rare foray forward to show they could cause problems on the counter-attack.
The pattern of play persisted into the second period before a goal in the other Group D game left both sides in danger.
News of Tunisia forward Khazri opening the scoring against France appeared to have filtered through to the Al Janoub Stadium just before Leckie latched on to McGree's through ball to race clear and finish with aplomb.
Denmark needed at least two goals to avoid leaving Qatar early but, with their lack of cutting edge, even an equaliser seemed unlikely.
Australia endured a major scare 19 minutes from time when substitute Kasper Dolberg tumbled in the box before the penalty decision was swiftly overturned.
The spirited Socceroos, led impressively by Scotland-born centre-back Harry Souttar, defended doggedly and deservedly survived six minutes of added time to upset the Euro 2020 semi-finalists and march on.
Australia's second World Cup victory in Qatar sees them finish second in Group D on six points, behind group winners France on goal difference. Denmark's disappointing campaign ends with them bottom of the group with just one point.
Australia's reward is a last-16 tie against Group C winners Argentina on Saturday (kick-off 7pm).
Socceroos coach Graham Arnold believes the team that battled their way past Denmark and into the World Cup last 16 on Wednesday have a case to be considered the new "golden generation" of Australian football.
"I'm just so proud of the players, the work ethic, the commitment, the fight that they had and the way they played," Arnold said.
"I'm just so proud that we've been able to put smiles on people's faces, it's the first time ever an Australian team has won two games in a row at the World Cup.
"Maybe we're talking about a new golden generation now, because we've been listening and hearing about the golden generation of 2006, who got four points and now we've got six."
Mathew Leckie scored his 14th goal for Australia in all competitions (first at the World Cup), at least five more than any other player in the Socceroos World Cup squad.