Michael Jedinak kept his nation alive for a knockout berth, scoring a 38th minute penalty as Australia held Denmark to 1-1 draw at the Samara Arena on Thursday.
Coming into the must-win contest on the back of an unlucky and VAR assisted 1-2 defeat to France, the Socceroos needed a victory but it didn’t go according to plan as Tottenham star Christian Eriksen put the Danes ahead in the 7th minute rifling the ball up and into the net after Nicolai Jorgensen had found the playmaker with a flick.
Knowing that they couldn’t afford another loss, Australia soon regrouped, settling in the game before waging a full-on come back in the final 15 minutes of the first-half. Right winger Mathew Leckie was their best player creating a few chances, the best of which fell to Robbie Cruse in the 30th minute, after the former had dribbled past two defenders before cutting the ball back to Kruse. But the forward took a touch too many instead of shooting and the opportunity was lost.
Australia though were soon rewarded for their persistence after VAR intervened eight minutes later. It came after Yussuf Poulsen – who will now miss Denmark’s final group match against France after receiving a yellow – was adjudged to have handled the ball, blocking Leckie’s on-target header from a corner and although the referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz waived off earlier penalty claims, he retreated after the VAR review.
Jedinak stood up and sent goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel the wrong away, levelling terms for Australia as both sides went into the break, equal on scores. The goal seemed to have rejuvenated the under pressure Socceroos, who stepped into the turf a different team in the second-half.
Denmark though had their own calls for VAR discarded after Poulsen looked to have been tripped five minutes after play had resumed. Australia on their part had taken complete control of the proceedings and twice came close to scoring just after the hour mark. The first came in the 62nd minute when Tom Rogic with a wonderful turn had send Leckie clear on goal, but the Hertha BSC midfielder misjudged the pass. Six minutes later, Van Marwijk’s boys were at hand again, when Schmeichel mishit a punch, but once again failed to put the ball inside the net.
Their lack of quality in the final third seemed to grow as the match went on and why veteran Tim Cahill still remains an unused sub is a big question.
Schmeichel was however at his best, saving Denmark twice in a span of seconds, first from a Daniel Arzani shot-who after coming on in the 68th minute became this World Cup’s youngest player to kick the ball-and then from a rebound shot by Leckie.
Although the Socceroos remain alive following the draw, things are however no longer in their control and not only will they need to defeat Peru next Tuesday but also hope for other results to go their way. Denmark meanwhile play France on the same day and need a victory to seal an entry into the knockouts.