DENMARK and Australia were left with all to play for in Group C after an entertaining draw in Samara left both teams needing a result in their final matches today to secure qualification for the knockout stages.
Christian Eriksen gave the Danes an early lead and his stunning seventh-minute strike was made possible by striker Nicolai Jorgensen’s adroit control and reverse flick to a teammate running in behind him.
The Tottenham Hotspur midfielder ran in to slam the ball into the roof of the net with his weaker foot on the half-volley. Jorgensen should have doubled the Danes’ lead in the 24th minute, heading wide from Henrik Dalsgaard’s text-book right-wing cross.
Australia’s first real chance of the half came when Matthew Leckie jinked his way down the right and pulled the ball back for Robbie Kruse, but the winger’s loose first touch allowed Andreas Christiansen to block his shot.
Yet they were handed a route back into the game in the 36th minute when Yussuf Poulsen was harshly adjudged to have blocked Leckie’s header from a corner with his trailing hand. Once more in this tournament, the referee waved play on only to be corrected by the video assistant referee. Mile Jedinak stepped up to side-foot home his third World Cup penalty, his second of this finals.
Denmark reasserted control at the start of the second half and almost regained the lead in the 51st minute when Pione Sisto side-footed wide after a penetrating run by Poulsen.
However, Australia, needing a positive result to stay in the competition, finished the game the stronger, reinvigorated by the 68th-minute introduction of the youngest player at the World Cup, Daniel Arzani.
Aaron Mooy lashed a shot just over in the 70th minute before Arzani nutmegged Sisto on the byline and flashed the ball across Kasper Schmeichel’s goal.
Arzani then cut in from the left to force a save from Schmeichel, who held Leckie’s volley from Jackson Irvine’s cross.
After the debatable French penalty which cost them a point in their first game, Australian coach Bert van Marwijk felt his team should have won four points rather than the one which they had. “Besides the first 15 minutes, we played very well. We had the chances to win, we deserved to win, so yeah, I’m disappointed.”
On Arzani, van Marwijk added: “Everybody knows he is a big talent. I trust his qualities. I think it’s good for him now to play for 25 minutes. I will see what I will do in the next game”
Man of the Match Christian Eriksen was disappointed that the VAR system had penalised his team for the second match running. “We expected it to be a very tough game and it was. We got the start that we wanted, but then after the game changed. After today, I don’t like the [VAR] system. Two matches in a row, we’ve had it against us. That’s bitter.”
His coach Age Hareide thought the penalty decision was right but not the procedure, “I do believe it was penalty. You know, the whole issue with VAR is that there are people somewhere in Russia deciding to look at this situation because it looks like a penalty. So who decides?
“Is it the referee on the pitch? Is it someone sitting in a dark room somewhere else? To me, it removes a bit of the charm of football to have such a precise system. I don’t know how it will work out for football in the long run.”
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