Wednesday’s encounter between Australia and Denmark, kicking off at 3.00 pm at Al Janoub Stadium, has all the makings of a knockout tie.
Not dismayed by a nightmarish 4-1 defeat to reigning world champions France in their 2022 World Cup Group D curtain-raiser, the Socceroos pulled off a stunning 1-0 win over Tunisia last time out.
Mitchell Duke headed home in the first half to hand Australia their first victory at the World Cup finals since 2010, but more importantly, reignite their hopes of reaching the competition’s knockout stage.
Aware his men are only at the halfway point, head coach Graham Arnold admitted his lads have so far ‘achieved nothing’ in the aftermath, emphasising the significance of this contest.
Since basement boys Tunisia seem unlikely to take down France in Group D’s other fixture, even a point in this encounter could be enough to fire the Australians into the round of 16 at the expense of Denmark.
Despite picking up just one point from the opening two group rounds in Qatar (D1, L1), De Rød-Hvide could still qualify for the knockout phase, but nothing less than victory here will do.
Kasper Hjulmand’s team first drew 0-0 with Tunisia in their opening match in Qatar before somewhat expectedly losing to France 2-1 in round two, thanks to Kylian Mbappe’s second-half brace.
Andreas Christensen’s consolation strike at least got Denmark off the mark at the 2022 World Cup, but if they’re to leave Australia in their wake, as they did in Russia four years ago, they’ll have to improve.
Seeking a spot in the World Cup knockout stage for the first time since 2006, Australia will have to play out of their skin to defy an underwhelming all-time World Cup record against European opposition.
In addition to suffering eight defeats in their 11 World Cup clashes against nations from the UEFA confederation (W1, D2), they have failed to keep a clean sheet in any of those matches.
Bringing all other countries into the equation, the Socceroos have racked up a measly three wins across their 18 World Cup outings (D4, L11), beating the likes of Japan, Serbia and Tunisia.
With each of the three abovementioned teams at least a level below them, Denmark should be unfazed by their sluggish World Cup start when they touch the Al Janoub pitch.
However, Hjulmand’s men seem to be developing a habit of faltering at the World Cup, having won none of their last five games at the tournament (D4, L1).
So while they remain the bookmakers’ heavy favourites here, underestimating Australia could lead to Denmark’s detriment, especially as they’ve lost twice in their last four matches (W1, D1).
Australia vs Denmark Head-to-Head
Mile Jedinak’s penalty cancelled out Christian Eriksen’s deadlock-breaker in a 1-1 draw in the 2018 World Cup group phase, accounting for the only previous encounter between the teams in the competition.
That’s also the only stalemate in the four historical clashes between Australia and Denmark, with the Danes registering two wins and one defeat in the other three.
Australia vs Denmark Potential Line-ups
Australia (4-5-1): Matthew Ryan; Fran Karacic, Harry Souttar, Kye Rowles, Aziz Behich; Matthew Leckie, Jackson Irvine, Aaron Mooy, Riley McGree, Craig Goodwin; Mitchell Duke.
Denmark (3-4-3): Kasper Schmeichel; Joachim Andersen, Simon Kjaer, Andreas Christensen; Rasmus Kristensen, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Christian Eriksen, Joakim Maehle; Andreas Skov Olsen, Kasper Dolberg, Mikkel Damsgaard.
Australia vs Denmark Prediction
If Denmark are to grab a necessary three points here, establishing a half-time lead could be paramount, as they’ve won none of their last four games in 2022 that featured a goalless opening half (D1, L3).
Australia will likely try to frustrate the Danes by ‘parking the bus’ in front of Matthew Ryan’s goal, which is nothing to be surprised about based on their woeful World Cup record against European nations.
But Hjulmand’s men have the quality on their side and should be making it to the win column on the individual brilliance of Eriksen and Kasper Dolberg alone.
Australia 0-2 Denmark
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