Socceroos into World Cup knockout stages for second time in their history

Arlo Gibbons
Arlo Gibbons
4 Min Read

Matthew Leckie’s winning goal against Denmark sends Australia through to the World Cup knockout stages for only the second time in their history.

The Socceroos and the Danes were both left in danger of exiting the tournament with Tunisia taking the lead against France in the other Group D fixture.

But Leckie had other plans and delivered the knockout blow for the Danes with a superb solo effort with around half an hour remaining to send Australia into the last 16 for the first time since 2006.

The Melbourne City forward ran almost half the length of the pitch and twisted and turned Joakim Maehle before calmly finishing beyond Kasper Schmeichel.

Denmark offered little in response, albeit they were denied a penalty by an offside flag when Algerian referee Mustapha Ghorbal pointed to the spot following Harry Souttar’s adjudged foul on Kasper Dolberg.

Graham Arnold’s men, who finished the group behind France on goal difference, will face one of Poland, Argentina or Saudi Arabia in the second round on Saturday.

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 Maehle, while Christian Eriksen dragged an effort wide.

Socceroos coach Arnold had spoken pre-match about “putting the game on the map a bit more” back home, as well as his desire to make the Australian public smile.

While his compact side were content to sit in and keep things tight, 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 grave danger.

News of Tunisia forward Wahbi 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 Dolberg tumbled in the box before the penalty decision was swiftly overturned.

The spirited Socceroos, led impressively by Scotland-born centre-back Souttar, defended doggedly and deservedly survived six minutes of added time to upset the Euro 2020 semi-finalists and march on.

READ MORE: The World Cup group stage has been annoyingly great; enjoy it because it’ll never happen again


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