Australia has made history with a stunning win against Denmark to progress to the World Cup’s knockout round for the first time since 2006.
The Socceroos shocked the football world with a 1-0 victory in their group D match after a sensational solo goal in the 60th minute from Mathew Leckie.
But there will be “no celebrations”, according to coach Graham Arnold who wants the team focused for its next match on Sunday as it fights for a place in the quarter-finals.
“As I said to the boys, that’s why we won after a great win against Tunisia. No celebrations, no emotion. Sleep. No social media,” said Arnold after the match.
Aussie fans went wild as Australia sealed its position in the next round of 16 for the first time since the golden era of Harry Kewell and Tim Cahill 16 years ago.
It was also the first time the Socceroos had won back-to-back games at the World Cup after their earlier defeat of Tunisia.
Australia is now ranked second in the group behind France, but for a while during the nailbiter it looked like the Socceroos might lose that spot.
In the other simultaneous game in Australia’s group, outsiders Tunisia had scored just three minutes earlier against France, momentarily lifting Tunisia to second.
But Leckie’s left-footed strike restored the Socceroos into that prized slot and ended Denmark’s hopes in Qatar.
The Danes are ranked 10th in the world, 28 slots higher than Australia.
“We always knew we could do it. We believed as a group,” Leckie said after the match.
“We had our doubters. With our spirit, our belief, our work ethic and how close we are, it shows on the pitch. That last 15, 20 minutes we battled to the end.”
Socceroos fans on edge as Australia battles for its place in the World Cup. Photo: Getty
Leckie enters football folklore
Leckie, played into space by Riley McGree, broke an hour-long deadlock with a slicing run at his marker Joakim Maehle after gathering some 30 metres from goal.
First to his right, then onto his left, Leckie twisted and turned his opponent and fired a low left-footer to instantly enter Australian football folklore.
“As the ball was rolling in, I saw it going in, I was so excited and so happy,” Leckie said pitchside.
“By the celebration you see how much emotion there was.
“I’m just so proud. We’ve worked so hard.
“This is my third World Cup now and I’ve had my chances in previous World Cups to score, wasn’t meant to be.
“My first World Cup (goal) is probably one of the most important goals for me and for the team.”
Australia will meet the winners of Group C, which looms as the victor of Argentina’s clash with Poland later on Wednesday (from 0600 AEDT Thursday).
Poland (four points) currently head Lionel Messi’s Argentina (three points) with Saudi Arabia (three points) trailing on goal difference.
The Socceroos knockout fixture will be played on Saturday night (0600 Sunday AEDT).
Leckie and his captain Mat Ryan, barring injury, will break the Australian record for most cup games in the knockout encounter.
Against the Danes, the duo both made their ninth cup appearance, equalling Tim Cahill and Marco Bresciano’s record.
Goalkeeper Ryan was called into action early as the Socceroos lacked early spark and were forced to repel a series of attacks from the Danes.
Aaron Mooy and Mathew Ryan rejoice in the victory. Photo: Getty
Ryan made a reflex save in the 11th minute from a thundering Mathias Jensen shot, the Australian parrying away with both hands above his head.
The Danes controlled two-thirds of possession, having almost double the passes of Australia in the opening half yet the Socceroos crafted some half-chances mainly courtesy of midfielder Riley McGree.
The attacking midfielder had the first shot of the match — a long-range left footer in the third minute which was blocked in the box — and another some 20 minutes later after Leckie and Mitch Duke headers played him into space.
After a scoreless half, Socceroos coach Graham Arnold replaced Craig Goodwin, who lacked his customary fizz on the flank, with Keanu Baccus.
And Arnold must have revved up his players, who produced a much improved second half to create another landmark.