Australia beat Denmark 1-0 in a Group C match of the World Cup at the Al Janoub Stadium in Qatar on Wednesday to qualify for the round of 16. Matthew Leckie scored the only goal of the match in the 60th minute.
The Socceroos thus became the first Asian team to qualify for the knock-out round. They had to win as Tunisia managed to stun defending champions France in the other group match and Leckie’s match-winner sealed the deal for them.
Denmark, who qualified for the knock-out round in four of the last five World Cups, had a disappointing run in this edition of the tournament, losing two out of their three group matches.
On that note, we take a look at two things that stood out in the match.
Denmark dominated possession, Australia had better chances in the first half
Denmark dominated possession from the beginning of the match, as they were the team desperate for a win. The Danes switched to a 4-3-3 formation from their 3-4-3 against France in their previous match and continued to depend on their full-backs Rasmus Kristensen and Joakim Maehle for delivering crosses from the flanks.
However, Kristensen could not overlap much and it was left to Maehle to deliver the crosses, which were dealt with comfortably by the Australian defenders. Denmark also earned a few free-kicks in good positions in the first half, but Christian Eriksen could not do much from them to trouble Mathew Ryan in Australia’s goal.
Australia started attacking more as the first half progressed and Riley McGree and Mitchell Duke tried their bit to break the deadlock. McGree’s cross could not beat Andreas Christensen on one occasion and Duke’s shot was collected by Kasper Schmeichel. Then Leckie looped a shot from Milos Degenek’s long throw that Schmeichel had to punch clear.
Denmark played more directly in second half but Australia scored
Denmark were more direct in their approach in the second half. They replaced Kristensen with Alexander Bah, who kept trying to overlap and sent in a few crosses in the first half. They also took off Mathias Jensen and Martin Braithwaite and threw in Kasper Dolberg and Mikkel Damsgaard.
Denmark tried to play more long balls and build up quickly in the second half, but Australia defended with all their players inside their own half to keep thwarting them. Moreover, Denmark depended a lot on Eriksen to provide the creative spark, but the 30-year-old playmaker was often in too deep a position to make a positive impact.
Eriksen kept dropping inside his own half to create moves, but that often gave the Australian defense enough time to regroup. The Australians relied on counter-attacks and got their goal from one of them.
A through pass was played to Leckie and he ran forward before dodging past Maehle and finishing superbly past Schmeichel with his left-footed shot. Australia strengthened their defense with a few substitutions thereafter to keep the Danes at bay.
Denmark’s quick build-ups put the Australian defense under pressure during the dying minutes of the match, but Ryan kept his composure to help his team win and go through.