Australia defeat Denmark to advance to the FIFA World Cup Round of 16

The Socceroos have made history, advancing to the Round of 16 of the FIFA World Cup for the second time in Australian football history with a plucky 1-0 triumph over Denmark at Al Janoub Stadium on Thursday morning (AEDT).

Mathew Leckie’s solitary goal on the hour mark sealed the Socceroos’ passage to the last 16 for the first time since 2006, with an incredible six points – our highest-ever points tally – to finish second behind France on goal difference in Group D.

With France losing 1-0 to Tunisia, the Socceroos had to win to qualify for the knockout stages.
It is also the first instance Australia has won consecutive games at the FIFA World Cup.

Going into the match Australia controlled its destiny, and instead of relying on other results or playing for the draw, the Aussies ultimately took matters into their own hands.

Graham Arnold made just the one personnel change to the starting XI with Milos Degenek replacing Fran Karacic at right-back.

Meanwhile, Mathew Ryan and Leckie joined Tim Cahill and Mark Bresciano on a record-equalling ninth FIFA World Cup appearance with the Socceroos.

Ryan produced a sharp save at his near post to tip over Mathias Jensen’s stinging strike as Denmark began the contest on the front foot.

Australia had to absorb a substantial amount of pressure from the 10th-ranked nation, though did have a handful of opportunities to break quickly but lacked quality on the final pass.

Riley McGree tried a speculative shot on the half-volley from a header down by Mitch Duke, however it was straight at Kasper Schmeichel.

Denmark appeared most threatening during the first half when they got in behind the Socceroos full-backs, though their final crosses were mostly dealt with by either Ryan or the two centre-backs in Harry Souttar and Kye Rowles.

For all the pressure Australia endured, they went into the interval level at 0-0.

Arnold introduced Keanu Baccus at half-time at the expense of Craig Goodwin in a tactical move which forced McGree into a wider position.

The Danes brought in Benfica’s Alexander Bah for Rasmus Kristensen in a like-for-like replacement at right-back.

Australia made a bright start to begin the half with Jackson Irvine firing over his snapshot from McGree’s cross, before the match mirrored a very similar pattern to the first 45 with Denmark controlling possession.

With Tunisia having just scored against France in the other group game, Australia needed to score, and they did just that through a blistering counter-attack.

In the 60th minute, Leckie became the ninth Australian to hit the back of the net at the FIFA World Cup with a superb individual run.

Souttar found Duke, who found McGree and he released the 31-year-old, who still had plenty of work to do.

The winger twisted and turned Joakim Maehle inside out before clinically seeing his left footed finish nestle into the bottom corner for his maiden FIFA World Cup goal.

Bailey Wright was given his debut at the major tournament with Arnold looking to sure things up defensively, taking off McGree.

Jamie Maclaren was then summoned after another tireless shift from Duke.

The Aussies negotiated the final stages expertly, with Denmark never really looking like scoring. Once the final whistle blew, scenes of utter jubilation ensued on the pitch, in the stands and back home.

The Green and Gold will face the winner of Group C which is Argentina.