Australia plays Denmark for last 16 spot at World Cup

Australia faces European Championship semifinalist Denmark in a decisive final group game at the World Cup with the winner likely advancing to the last 16

ByANDREW DAMPF AP Sports Writer
November 29, 2022, 8:05 AM
Australia's players celebrate at the end of the World Cup group D soccer match between Tunisia and Australia at the Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah, Qatar, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
Australia's players celebrate at the end of the World Cup group D soccer match between Tunisia and Australia at the Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah, Qatar, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
The Associated Press

DOHA, Qatar -- Scenes of wild celebrations featuring flares and fire are not the norm in Australia after World Cup matches.

Yet that was exactly what happened in Melbourne’s Fed Square after the Socceroos beat Tunisia on Saturday for just their third win in 18 World Cup matches.

Now, Australia is after something even bigger: reaching the last 16 of soccer’s biggest event — something it has achieved only once, in 2006.

Australia faces European Championship semifinalist Denmark in its decisive final group game Wednesday, with the winner likely advancing.

“It’s been an amazing reaction from our result. And so there should be,” said Australia striker Mitchell Duke, who scored with a header in the 1-0 win against Tunisia. “But we haven’t achieved anything yet.

“It was amazing to get that result and get that third win in a World Cup for Australia. But we’re not happy and satisfied with that,” Duke added. "We want more and we do believe that we can get out of the group and we can get a result against Denmark and that’s our main objective now.”

Defending champion France has already advanced to the knockout stages in Group D with a full six points from its opening two games. Australia sits next with three points, while Denmark and Tunisia trail with one point each.

Australia will qualify with a win, or a draw unless Tunisia beats France. Denmark needs to win and hope that Tunisia doesn’t beat France.

Australia is counting on France performing well against Tunisia.

“There’s players out there that are hungry for individual awards. And (France forward Kylian) Mbappé will want to keep scoring goals to try and get the Golden Boot and things like that,” Duke said. “So I’m hopeful all those players in the French squad keep that same mentality and want to get the full clean sweep in their group to get the result and do us a favor against Tunisia.”

Although, as Duke also pointed out, “as long as we get the job done against Denmark, it doesn’t matter.”

Australia drew 1-1 with Denmark in the group phase of the last World Cup in 2018.

But Denmark will expect more of itself after a lackluster 0-0 opening draw with Tunisia and a 2-1 loss to France.

’It is very clear and it is very easy; we don’t have to make any calculations or think (about) other options,” Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand said. “It is straightforward; we will try to win the match, that is it.”

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AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

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Andrew Dampf is at https://twitter.com/AndrewDampf

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